2019 was a year of growth and change for education systems in Utah County.
The Alpine School District and Utah Valley University continued to grow, with both opening new academic buildings.
Brigham Young University’s homecoming was full of changes, from the renaming of Bulldog Boulevard to Cougar Boulevard, the unveiling of a LEGO bricks model of the former Brigham Young Academy and the elimination of the traditional homecoming parade. That same fall, BYU announced it would be increasing its enrollment cap for the first time in decades.
The university also made its first moves on the old Provo High School property, demolishing portables and a freestanding building on the grounds.
The following are the top five education stories of 2019 at the precollegiate and university levels.
1. Provo City School District bond fails
The Provo City School District’s proposed $245 million bond failed to win the favor of voters this November.
The bond, which would have gone toward rebuilding Timpview High School, rebuilding and relocating Dixon Middle School, rebuilding Wasatch Elementary School, added an addition to Westridge Elementary School and had $5 million to fund security upgrades, lost after about 63% of counted votes were cast against it.
Different groups opposing the bond had various reasons for fighting the measure, from a desire to not see an increase in property taxes, to resistance to moving Dixon Middle School to the high cost of rebuilding Timpview High School, a project that would have included placing a new structure on piers.
The bond came years earlier than expected after rough winters caused the soil underneath part of Timpview High School to shift and for a piece of masonry to fall through the media center’s tiles. Cracks continue to appear throughout the school.
The district has not announced what it will do about rebuilding Timpview High School or if another proposed bond could appear on the 2020 ballot.
2. Alpine School District opens five new schools
It was a busy year for the ever-growing Alpine School District. In the fall, the district opened Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain, Liberty Hills Elementary School in Lehi, Centennial Elementary School in Orem, Polaris High School-West in American Fork and Lake Mountain Middle School in Saratoga Springs.
Not all of the openings went smoothly. Lake Mountain Middle School partially opened in mid-September, weeks behind schedule, after construction delays continued to plague the site. Students’ first day in the building was pushed back twice, and the district utilized a hybrid mix of in-person labs and online courses to educate students until the site was declared safe for students.
It was the snow day heard ‘round the district. A snow storm hit Utah in February, leading to icy conditions for parts of the Alpine School District. The district kept schools open, leading to outrage from parents who said conditions in their neighborhoods prevented students and teachers from safely traveling to school.
In response, the Alpine School District Board of Education passed a policy in the fall that would allow for schools to be closed, have delayed starts or release students early in the case of unsafe weather. The new policy allows the district’s superintendent to close schools at the district, cluster and school levels.
4. Alpine School District faces $73M bond deficit
Additions to schools and increases to construction costs that outpaced initial estimates contributed to the Alpine School District facing a $73 million deficit between the remaining costs of building projects and funds available through its 2016 bond. The Alpine School District Board of Education met in August to discuss what to do with the deficit, which could have included cutting either a middle school or two elementary schools off the list of bond projects.
Weeks later, the district insisted that the deficit was typical of its other bond processes, and the board of education moved forward with the decision to still build a middle school and two elementary schools off the bond. The district has not announced a specific plan for how it will finance the projects.
5. Nebo School District begins constructing bond projects
2019 saw the beginning of a project to bring middle schools back to the Nebo School District.
The district began construction on Valley View Middle School in Salem, the first of a handful of schools that will be added to the district. The projects, financed off the district’s $298 million 2018 bond, will include Maple Grove Middle School in the Maple Mountain High School area, Spring Canyon Middle School in the Springville High School area, and rebuilds of Spanish Fork, Springville and Payson high schools. Construction on the two additional middle schools will begin in 2020, with the high school rebuilds beginning in 2022.
1. Student protests spur honor code changes
Hundreds of students and alumni filled BYU’s Cougar Quad in April to protest the university’s honor code and how it is enforced.
Students agree to live by the honor code — which bans actions such as the consumption of alcohol, premarital sex, homosexual behavior and growing a beard — in order to attend. Violating the code can lead to probation, suspension and expulsion.
Students began actively protesting the code after the Instagram account Honor Code Stories began publishing anonymous accounts of students’ interactions with the Honor Code Office. While multiple student groups formed to take action on the code, Restore Code BYU, became the largest voice.
Changes to the BYU Honor Code Office came soon after. Since the protest, the university has announced that the office will begin informing students why they had been asked to go to the office and will state their reported violation before their first meeting, that students will be presumed innocent of a violation unless they accept responsibility or an investigation finds them guilty, that students will be told who reported them and that students will get an explanation of the investigation process when they first meet with the office. BYU also hired individuals to add to the office’s diversity.
Restore Honor BYU continues to meet with university administrators about potential future updates to the code.
2. UVU sees year
of the woman
For the first time in its history, a woman was at the helm at UVU.
Astrid Tuminez was officially inaugurated as the university’s seventh president in March, a handful of months after she began her official duties the previous September.
Her impact on UVU was immediately seen in January, after comments by an employee during her second day on the job led to Tuminez putting pressure on the university to quickly pass a maternity leave policy. The new policy, which Tuminez called “long overdue,” allows for six weeks of paid leave to eligible employees.
More changes came in the fall when the university began installation of five Mamava lactation pods in high-trafficked areas around campus. The pods give mothers a private, quiet space to feed infants. UVU had previously used offices as lactation spaces, but the university’s growing enrollment had placed pressure on room availability.
3. UVU growth spurs new buildings and
UVU opened one building this year and began work on another.
The $60 million Noorda Center for the Performing Arts opened in March as part of the “Week of Dreams” that also heralded in Astrid Tuminez’s inauguration as UVU’s newest president. In true dramatic fashion, the ribbon cutting followed a skit and was performed with sabers.
The building includes 130,000 square feet of performing and teaching space, a 900-seat concert hall, a 501-seat proscenium theater with an orchestra pit, a dance hall and a choral ensemble venue.
Several months later, UVU broke ground on the $75 million Scott C. Keller Building, which will house the university’s business school.
The university celebrated another historic occasion in September when doTerra donated $17.7 million to UVU. The donation is part of a 10-year agreement between UVU and the essential oils company and will go to fund scholarships, online education, athletic programs, the Center for Constitutional Studies, the Women’s Success Center and the first five seasons of the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts.
The donation was the second-largest amount gifted to UVU at one time.
4. Latter-day Saint president says LGBTQ exclusion policy was “motivated by love” while at BYU
Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed BYU in September, being the first Latter-day Saint president to speak at the church-owned university since 2011.
Nelson’s address touched on the church’s 2015 policy that banned children of LGBTQ couples from being baptized. Nelson said the policy — and it’s 2019 reversal — was “motivated by love.”
Nelson’s address focused on the topic of truths, which included that while same-sex marriage is legalized in the United States, God defines it as between a man and a woman.
“We may not always tell people what people want to hear,” Nelson said. “Prophets are rarely popular, but we will always teach the truth.”
5. BYU sells Amanda Knight Hall
One of BYU’s oldest buildings will see new life under a new owner.
BYU announced the sale of Amanda Knight Hall to Mountain Classic Real Estate Inc., an investment group known for restoration of historical, commercial and multifamily properties, in June.
Amanda Knight Hall was built in 1939 as a women’s dormitory for BYU and later housed missionaries before becoming an overflow space.
The building was planned to be demolished and have a replica built in its place. It was placed on the market after the university faced community backlash about the decision.