Construction delays have forced a Utah high school to start classes online

Bingham High will go with remote learning for the first day of school.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bingham High School students play football in this file photo from September 4, 2015. For the 2021-2022 school year, renovations on Bingham High will not be completed in time for kids to come back. They will start this fall with two weeks of online instruction.

It’s back to online learning for students at Bingham High School — but this time, it’s not actually because of a COVID outbreak.

The reason now: construction delays.

Renovations inside the high school in South Jordan have taken longer than expected to complete. And it won’t be ready for kids to attend on the first day of class.

“It’s just not safe enough to have students in there,” said Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf on Tuesday.

The school had started on the third phase of a six-year plan for remodeling earlier this summer. And it included gutting most of the classrooms in the building, which was originally constructed in 1975, to redo the floors and add new technology.

It was supposed to be done in time for kids to return. But the district, which sits mostly at the west side of Salt Lake County, has run into material shortages for things like sheet metal, as well as labor shortages. Some of that has been brought on by renewed interest in building after the COVID-19 vaccine came out. And it’s a problem that construction companies across the nation are facing. (A school in North Dakota similarly delayed opening.)

At Bingham High, it will mean students starting with two weeks of remote instruction when class resumes on Aug. 16. And the hope is that the project will be done by Aug. 30 so they can come back in person.

“It’s beyond anyone’s control,” Riesgraf said. “It’s not the way anyone wanted to start the new school year, but there are exciting things happening to renovate the school and bring opportunities to students.”

The spokeswoman said construction workers are on the project all day, nights and weekends to try to get it finished. Never before in the district’s history has it been unable to physically open a school on the first day of class.

Last year, students there returned in person, even with the pandemic, though there were several times when the schools in the district had to pivot to two weeks of online learning due to an outbreak.

The renovation project, budgeted at nearly $38 million, has been an effort to save money, fixing up the school rather than tearing it down and rebuilding entirely.

The current phase of the renovation has focused on the classrooms, 70% of which are on the second floor. Riesgraf said many of the materials for those — such as flooring and lighting and HVAC systems — have been among the hardest to get with the shortages.

The first phases of the project, now complete, were to upgrade the science and performing arts centers and the wood shop areas of the high school. After the classrooms are done, the district will move forward with updating the main level, cafeteria, gym and doing a partial roof replacement.

Meanwhile, nearby Canyons School District is unveiling three newly rebuilt high schools next week: Alta, Brighton and Hillcrest. The district, at the south end of Salt Lake County, said it also faced challenges with getting building supplies.

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