How accessible is Utah’s new Granger High School?

Story and photos by WENDY DANG

The new Granger High School in West Valley City opened its doors in Fall 2013. With a fresh start, Granger has made better accommodations for students with physical and learning disabilities.

Rebecca Beck, a resource teacher who taught in the old building, commented on the lack of accessibility her students who use wheelchairs faced in the old school.

Beck said in previous years, the school “tried lifts on staircases but (they) were too dangerous.”

The main entrance to Granger High School, which opened in Fall 2013.

The main entrance to Granger High School, which opened in Fall 2013.

Now with the $80 million building, Beck sees how much easier it is for her students to get around.

“(The) only access problems are crowds,” Beck said. Other than the hordes of students walking to class during pass time, the numerous elevators and wide hallways offer easier access for students who use wheelchairs.

Since 1958, Granite School District has kept the general floor plan of Granger relatively the same. Although the school tried its best to make the main building accessible by moving required classes to the main floor, students who used wheelchairs still couldn’t get to the upper level.

This new building has elevators scattered around the building, as well as accessible ramps that are noticeable improvements on the old school.

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A bathroom in the resource area offers easier access due to wider floor space.

The bathrooms, located around the resource student area on the first floor, have three wide stalls that are roomy and efficient enough for any student to use.

The building still has some planning issues to work out, however.

John Carlisle teaches photography, a humanities course and is also the yearbook and newspaper editor. Regarding the security of the new elevators, Carlisle said, “In the event of a legit fire alarm, we have to carry kids down. Safety first.”

If a fire alarm is set off, the elevators will shut down. The school authorities are still in the process of finding a procedure that might be safer for the students on upper floors.

The new building sits just south of the old one, where the parking lot and Granger Park used to be. Along with new facilities including multi-garage shops for automotive classes, an exclusive black-box theater for the drama students and an entire hallway for the sciences, Granger High School is offering more space for students to learn.

The school supplies each classroom with iPads for students to stay current with technology. Many teachers are using them to exercise alternative mediums of learning in order to reach students who have different learning and behavior disabilities.

Clete Johansson was an English teacher in the old math and English building. He was brought over to the new one to continue his classes.

“iPads probably allow me to do more (with students) if they can’t write” due to mobility issues, he said.

Brandon Moore, another resource teacher, implements aspects of technology into his classroom experience to accommodate the students’ different learning styles.

Widely known as the READ 180 program, the students in his class are rotated between 20 minutes on computers, 20 minutes in small groups and 20 minutes of individual reading.

This helps stir the usual pot of a traditional classroom. By replacing an 80-minute class lecture with interactive learning and engaging people skills, Moore can cater better to students who might have attention disorders and can’t focus for an entire class period.

Whether it be a physical or learning disability, Granger High School can now offer education to students when it couldn’t before.