Utah’s oldest school will leave 9th and 9th. Its 1921 building was made for a ’different era.’

Rowland Hall is not the only Salt Lake City school confronting the realities of age.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street campus has served grades six to 12 since 1984. The school plans to sell its aging Lincoln Street building near 9th and 9th ahead of a planned move.

A campus the size of almost three football fields complete with research labs for teens, two gymnasiums and a theatre might be a dream for most schools, but one Salt Lake City private school is aiming for just that in three years.

Rowland Hall, considered Utah’s oldest school, recently announced plans to build a brand-new campus that would house both its 3-year-old prekindergarten to fifth grade school and its sixth through 12th grade school in one building, near its existing space on Sunnyside Avenue.

To do that, the school founded in 1867 plans to sell its Lincoln Street campus in the 9th and 9th neighborhood.

Much of the reason, said head of school Mick Gee, is a longstanding desire to “be united on one campus.” But at the end of the day, both the school’s current buildings are aging and don’t fit the needs of students anymore, he added.

“We make magic happen at the Lincoln Campus, but the building was built in 1921,” Gee said. “It was built for a school with a different kind of program and a different era.”

Rowland Hall is not the only Salt Lake City school confronting the realities of age. Public charter Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts announced this year it would leave its “falling apart” east side campus for a different building downtown, and four Salt Lake City School District elementaries are under a microscope for potential closure, partly due to aging campuses.

Another local private school, Judge Memorial Catholic High, is also listed for sale, with plans to potentially relocate to South Salt Lake rather than undergo “cost prohibitive” renovations.

‘A historic moment’ for Rowland Hall

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rowland Hall's Lincoln Street campus currently houses its middle and upper schools, serving grades six through 12.

Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street campus has served grades six to 12 since 1984. The school’s McCarthey Campus, which houses 3-year-old prekindergarten through fifth grade, has been operating since 2002, Gee said, and it will continue to serve those younger children.

In 2010, Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees purchased 13.2 acres next to its McCarthey Campus, located at 720 Guardsman Way, near Sunnyside Park. The new combined campus, dubbed the Richard R. Steiner Campus, will be housed on that land.

The campus will consist of one building for grades six through 12, with two wings serving
grades six to eight and grades nine to 12 separately, connected by a common dining area, Gee said. According to EHDD Architecture, the San Francisco-based firm building the new school, the campus will also be designed to reduce energy usage and sit at around 162,710 square feet.

In a news release, Rowland Hall board chair Sarah Lehman said the new campus will be “a historic moment for the school.”

“The integrated campus plan will further elevate teaching and learning, and expand programmatic opportunities while bringing the community together,” Lehman said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

(Rowland Hall) A rendering of Rowland Hall's new Steiner campus that's slated to be constructed by fall 2026.

The labs at the new campus for example will allow students to do “actual research,” and may bring in outside mentors and experts, Gee said. The goal is to better ready students for opportunities such as national STEM competitions.

The school’s new theater will also be “state-of-the-art,” he said, and weight rooms will accompany its new gyms.

Construction on the Steiner Campus is slated to begin this summer, and it should open in fall 2026. As of mid-December, the estimated cost for the project is $95 million, Gee said.

“We have a campus to sell. We have been fundraising for a while — we’ve already raised $31.5 million,” Gee said, adding that they hope to raise a total of $45 million through fundraising. The Lincoln Campus is currently under contract with an anonymous buyer, the news release noted.

Another aging private school seeks to move

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The land beneath Judge Memorial Catholic High School, on 1100 East in Salt Lake City, is listed for sale.

Judge Memorial Catholic High could also move from its east side perch, after officials with the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City last year announced they hoped to sell the land beneath it.

Mark Longe, the superintendent of Utah Catholic Schools, wrote in a letter at the time that Judge Memorial’s facilities, which ranged from 40 to 90 years old, were “inadequate” and that “renovations were cost prohibitive.” That included the adjacent Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, an affiliated grade school and a rectory.

The school is dealing with aging plumbing and roofing, for instance, and overall feels cramped for today’s students, Judge Memorial Principal Patrick Lambert said.

“I guess you could say we’re highly effective at utilizing a pretty confined space,” he said.

The plan was to relocate the high school and other facilities to an existing 14.4-acre campus near St. Ann Catholic Church, located at 2119 S. 400 East in South Salt Lake.

There, the hope is to build a facility that “will last the next 100 years,” said Lambert. Like Rowland Hall, that could mean more lab space for students, more space for wood shop, bigger weight rooms and a “fully functional middle school.” Currently, the middle school is located on Judge Memorial’s fourth floor.

Moving to the St. Ann campus would also give students access to the TRAX light rail system.

“I look at the schools that are building around us, and I think innovation is always going to be kind of paramount in this,” Lambert said, adding that Judge Memorial wants to provide “the best experience for our students.”

As of late December, the Judge Memorial property was still listed for sale. Lambert said prospective buyers have been touring the campus, but the school hasn’t accepted any offers. He added that a move isn’t guaranteed, because they need to make sure — through processes like feasibility studies — they can raise the money to do so.

“[A move] has been explored over the last 40 years,” he said, “but we’ve been pretty laser-focused on it over the last five years, in trying to design and create and explore where the new campus would be.”

‘We have to do things differently’

The potential private school moves come after public charter Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, nicknamed SPA, announced in April that it would be leaving the old Rosslyn Heights Elementary School building after the Salt Lake City School District declined to renew the charter’s lease.

The east side campus was “falling apart,” SPA board president Doug Keefe told The Tribune in April. SPA eventually moved into the old Oquirrh School building downtown.

The school district in November announced the Rosslyn Heights building would be demolished and turned into athletic spaces for nearby Highland High School.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A classroom at the former Rosslyn Heights Elementary building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

Building age has also been a factor as the school district looks to close some of its elementary campuses, with four recently recommended to shut down: Bennion and Hawthorne on the east side, and Mary W. Jackson and Riley on the west.

For example, Mary W. Jackson Elementary was estimated to have 18 years of estimated life left compared to Newman Elementary’s 38. Mary W. Jackson also received a low score when it came to “anticipated future electrical needs,” and only 40% of the classrooms in the school had windows, the district noted in its closure study.

Other factors considered in the district’s monthslong closure study included student enrollment numbers, locations of special programs, proximity to other schools and safe walking routes.

But while building sales and construction “gets the headlines,” moving students to better facilities is more than that, Gee said.

“It’s really about supporting an educational program and a vision,” he said, adding that as educators, “We have to do things differently, to teach differently.”

— Tribune staff writer Tony Semerad contributed to this report.

Correction • 5 p.m. Dec. 26, 2023: This story has been updated to correctly reflect which grades will be served on the new Steiner Campus and in its new building.