For more than 100 years, Cyprus High has been in the heart of Magna.
Generations of families have attended the school in the shadow of the Oquirrh foothills, and newcomers to the township of nearly 30,000 residents quickly learn to incorporate the Cyprus gold and blue into their lives.
But as much as the school spirit has lived on through the decades, the building itself has suffered its share of setbacks.
The home of the Pirates — the school mascot — shut down in 1981 because of soil issues. In nautical terms, the ship started to sink. Though the school was rebuilt, issues persisted, especially in the wake of last year’s magnitude 5.7 earthquake centered near Magna. Some parts of the school are over 100 years old. It even hosts a few bats that flap around.
Mostly, though, the school is simply too small. The Pirates need a bigger boat.
So Granite School District opted to build another home for Cyprus near 8400 West and 4000 South. Construction began earlier this month, and the school is set to open in fall 2025.
“It’s time for the students and the community and Magna to have a fully comprehensive high school,” district spokesperson Ben Horsley said, “with all the amenities that our students deserve.”
Blending the old into the new
The current campus covers less than 40 acres, serving more than 2,650 students. The new location is expected to be about 60 acres and be better sized to handle the growth anticipated in Magna in the next 15 to 20 years.
The plan is to enhance and expand the collaborative learning and athletic spaces. In its current spot, the pool the swim team uses is four lanes wide, making it tough for the school to host competitions. The new pool is expected to have eight lanes.
The baseball team practices a mile away from the campus because it doesn’t have a field or the space to build one. In 2025, the school will sport its own baseball diamond.
Principal Rob McDaniel knows plenty about the nostalgia surrounding Cyprus. Three generations of his family attended it. He was there during a two-year stretch in the 1980s, when students had to go to classes at nearby Brockbank Junior High.
It was a mission of his to return home and work with an ever-changing community.
“Magna now is not what Magna was when I went here,” he said. Now, with a more diverse student body, which includes international and out-of-state roots, and a growing town, there’s a “big-city feel” attached to the tightknit suburban community 15 miles west of downtown Salt Lake City.
This new location represents a dramatic change, but the school and the district are working to keep Cyprus’ past and present alive in its future.
The new school’s interior colors, for instance, won’t change, and the facade will include a copper tone, to honor the school and community’s deep ties to the copper industry.
“One of the things that people who have been here forever say is that we have the ‘C’ on the mountain. You still can see the ‘C’ on the mountain from the new location, so it still is, in a way, like the old Cyprus,” McDaniel said. “We definitely want to keep the essence but have fewer bats flying around on the inside.”
The new location was on a lot slightly outside of the township, but Magna annexed it in 2018. Even as construction crews broke ground on the new school this month, the surrounding area finds itself blooming, too. The school is in the middle of Little Valley Gateway, a 200-acre development by D.R. Horton.
“It’s actually in a perfect location,” Trish Hull, Magna’s mayor pro tempore, said. “That’s where the growth is.”
Apart from the development of 1,360 housing units Magna expects around the high school, Hull explained, there is still more land that could potentially sprout houses and businesses.
“What we understand from what the school district has told us, it’s going to be state-of-the-art, cutting-edge, technologywise, spacewise,” Hull said. “It’s really a 21st-century school”
More campus shuffling awaits
Once the high school is ready to receive students in 2025, the school board can consider other uses for Cyprus’ current location.
A junior high school might still be needed in that area, so an alternative is to reopen Brockbank Junior High in that location. When Brockbank closed in 2016, Cyprus shifted to a grades 9-12 model, using both campuses to serve that student population. Seventh and eighth graders transferred to Magna’s Matheson Junior High.
Magna Elementary School is set to be rebuilt in the next decade, so opening a space for it on the current Cyprus site might be an option as well.
If the district decides to sell the property, Magna Township would have first dibs.
“We also recognize that sometimes our school locations are the last vestiges of open space in certain areas,” said Horsley, “and so we do try to work with our local municipalities and or the county in those types of situations when we do surplus property, to see if those spaces can be retained, if at all possible.”
But that decision rests in the future. For now, the attention is focused on the new Cyprus and building a “C”-worthy Pirate vessel that can sail for decades to come.
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.