Granger High to incorporate past as it moves forward

Published: Friday, Sept. 16 2011 11:40 p.m. MDT

The new high school building is under construction as the old building remains standing in the background at Granger High School in West Valley City on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — The Granger Lancers will seize a new castle in two years once construction on the new high school is completed in 2013.

The Class of 1981 will meet Saturday in Stonehenge — the school's round cafeteria — for their last reunion in the storied building at 3690 S. 3600 West that has remained amidst a community that has changed significantly.

"I think just about everyone has mixed feelings," said Brent Newton, president of the Granger Alumni Association. "It's sad to see that go. … Although the building will be lost, we as an alumni association are working to ensure that the spirit of the old building is carried into the new."

Medieval Lancer traditions that were formed in the old 1958 building will transcend the move to the new building. The yearbook will still be known as The Shield, the football field will still be known to many as the jousting field, while the drill team will still be The Excaliburs.

Granger High opened its doors to a very different community than the one it serves today. What was once a rural, agricultural community is now enveloped by sprawling West Valley City — the second most populated city in the state.

"The neighborhood has changed," said Sandra Woodward, who is in her 37th year of teaching English and Latin at the school. "Certainly this area has lost economically. ... But the kids have (always) been wonderful kids."

Woodward said the student base was likely about 80 percent white when she began her career at Granger. Today, 46 percent of students are Hispanic, according to the Granite School District. Thirty-five percent are white, and the remaining 19 percent are comprised of Asians, Pacific Islanders, African Americans and Native Americans.

Woodward said those changes have enriched the school, even considering the challenges diversity can bring. Communicating with parents can be difficult when they don't speak English, but the school has adapted by sending out robocalls in English and Spanish, and creating a parents center when they can get resources.

"Boy have we worked hard," she said. "Diversity helps our kids. … I think it helps prepare our kids for that global world."

Despite the differences from the school's beginning, the sense of community remains, Newton said. Newton graduated in 1985 and lives eight doors down from the high school. His wife is also a Lancer and he said he still tells people he's from Granger, even though the community was incorporated into West Valley City about 30 years ago.

"There is a Granger history," he said. "It's always been and it still is a working class community. … Because of that, it just forges strong bonds."

The new football stadium, which was dedicated Sept. 2, was the first phase of the new construction. The new building is going up just north of campus in what was previously Granger Park. Demolition on the old building will begin in June 2013, and that land will be used for the new parking lot, softball field and tennis court. Principal Jerry Haslam said the new building will have a capacity of 2,400, and he would like to see grades reconfigured so ninth graders will be housed in the building.

Newton said that although the demolition will be bittersweet, he's felt palpable excitement surrounding the new projects. Faculty are looking forward to having a new building replete with electrical outlets as some classrooms in the old building only have one or two electrical outlets, he said.

What's more, the new construction comes at a time when the area is "going through a renaissance." He said more people attended the opening football game than he's seen in years. Fans overflowed the stands and some stood on the track, just like 25 years ago when there wasn't much to do on a Friday night in the area but go to the local game.

"It's been a long time since it was like that," he said. "That's what Granger games were like when the community came together for football games — because, what else did we do?"

Woodward said perceptions of the school are changing from both the outside and inside. For years it was seen as a "failing school" because it regularly fell short of federal testing benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act, while others deemed it a gang school, "which is absolutely not true," she said.

Notable successes include changing the way students and outsiders view the school. For the first time since NCLB went into effect in 2002-03, Granger met the testing standards for the 2010-11 school year. Last school year, there was a 17 percent increase in on-time attendance, a 25 percent reduction in failing grades, and 20 percent more students took and passed Advanced Placement tests than the previous year.

"There is a great deal more spirit, so that's rising and that's coming up," Woodward said. "I think there's a lot of things to make kids proud of themselves and proud to be from Granger High."

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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