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Junior high closed indefinitely due to earthquake damage

West Lake STEM Junior High School in West Valley City was damaged by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that was centered near Magna on March 18. (PHOTO: Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A West Valley junior high school will close indefinitely, two weeks after the Magna earthquake caused some serious damage.

Officials deemed West Lake STEM Junior High a restricted building after inspectors found structural damage inside.

Collapsing ceilings

Clint Mecham, Salt Lake County Emergency Management division chief, says the damage includes some ceilings caving in and rubble in the hallways. He does not yet know whether the building is a total loss or can be repaired. So even if COVID-19 school closures lift on May 1, students won’t be going back to West Lake anytime soon.

“Students will not return to that facility this year,” Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley told the Deseret News. “So if we were to come back to school (in May), we would continue with distance learning at West Lake Junior High.”

Horsley says they are describing the school as “closed indefinitely” because of the number of unknowns.

“We are relying on the expertise of the state and their folks to make a decision on whether renovation will occur or a full rebuild,” Horsley said. “We hope to know something before the end of the school year. It could literally take a few more weeks or a few more months.”

Extended timeline

He adds it will likely take “at least a year or two” to reopen if officials declare the school a total loss, meaning it must be rebuilt. Because of that, school district officials are now looking for some “off-site locations” where students could be relocated in the meantime.

School board members will likely address those options at the district’s next board meeting in May.

Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, school officials have more of a cushion to evaluate damage and make plans for the future.

“Of the whole global pandemic, this [is] the only positive that’s come of that,” explains Horsley.