BRIGHAM CITY -- It's been just shy of 100 years since the "old" Box Elder High School was built on the east side of Brigham City where the middle school now stands. Fifty years ago, that school was replaced with the "new" high school at its current location on 600 West in Brigham City.
Last fall, the school district completed a major community-driven renovation project with high hopes of breathing new life into Box Elder High for another 50 years.
Bear River High School in Tremonton also underwent major renovations. The original portion of the school was built in 1924, while the remainder of the buildings were added throughout the 1950s and '60s until it had become "an assortment of clutter," said Jim Christensen, Box Elder School District facilities director.
In 2007, the Box Elder School Board saw the need to upgrade both high schools, but its first attempt to fund the project failed when voters defeated a tax leeway.
However, when the board considered a bond instead, the idea took on some steam, Christensen said.
The school board pursued a $70 million bond, enough to complete renovations at both high schools and build a new elementary school in the Tremonton area.
It was a tricky proposition, Christensen said.
The north end of the district had a greater need, but the southern part has a larger voter base. But in the end, the bond was approved.
"It has been an expensive, painful experience, but I have to commend the board for making that decision," Christensen said.
The construction of elementary schools is relatively routine, and the school district has been able to save money by having an architect draw up the plans for one school and then using those plans for multiple buildings.
However, Christensen said, the high schools were much more complex because Box Elder and Bear River have very different needs.
The school board explored and addressed those needs by inviting community involvement in the construction process.
Several meetings were held for each school, led by the architects and each school's principal. Community members and school staff provided input, with one caveat: The design could not be one suitable "for now" -- it had to be suitable for at least 70 years.
"There were a lot of common goals, but also a lot of unique priorities," Christensen said. "The nature of what we were trying to replace dictated the priorities."
Both schools had inadequate lunchroom facilities and long corridors that made student supervision difficult. The auditorium at Bear River was "newish," while the one at Box Elder needed some tender loving care.
The community placed a high priority on science labs at Box Elder High School.
Bear River High School needed newer vocational buildings, and as a former shop teacher, Christensen said he would have loved to have seen that happen.
But what the school really needed was a field house, and Christensen said when it came down to the last $1 million allotted for Bear River, the community chose to support that project.
Teachers and students worked around construction workers for nearly two years.
Some parts of the school were renovated, while others were demolished and rebuilt.
Christensen said both schools were structurally sound. "It was no small feat to get them down."
However, the wiring and plumbing in both schools was in such poor condition that it was not worth trying to save the buildings, he said. "I feel really good about the investment we have made. I think the bond will prove to be a huge advantage to the community."