Vista School announces expansion of facilities, unique educational opportunities

Exterior of the Vista School in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 16, 2020 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The Vista School in Ivins will soon break ground on a new facility to expand its offerings of unique coursework, ranging from robotics to music production. 

Classroom at the Vista School in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 16, 2020 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Vista is a tuition-free public charter school serving students in kindergarten through the ninth grade. According to the school’s mission statement, Vista seeks to provide an educational environment where immersion in the arts and technology inspires student growth.

Principal and director Sam Gibbs said the Vista community of students, parents and teachers began expressing a desire for additional learning space about five years ago. 

“There was a need to develop and create high-end facilities,” he said. “The programs and curriculum were advancing at such a high level, we needed facilities that could keep up.”  

Vista anticipates breaking ground on the expansion in the coming weeks, Gibbs said. The expected completion date will be sometime in June 2022. 

The 37,000-square-foot expansion includes a professional-grade performing arts theater, dance studio, makerspace, computer lab and additional classrooms to replace several portable units currently in use at the school. It will increase Vista’s size by more than a third. 

Assistant principal Chris Barnum said the expansion will also allow Vista to increase its student body. The school currently has 1,031 students enrolled in grades K-9, and there are typically more than 300 kids on their waiting list at the start of each school year. Admission is done through a lottery system, but there isn’t room enough for everyone.  

Recess field at the Vista School in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 16, 2020 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“We don’t want to have a huge waiting list throughout the year,” he said. “We don’t want to turn kids away if we can avoid it. We want to be able to accommodate them if they want to go to Vista.” 

Gibbs said that financing the expansion has been a long and arduous process. No tax dollars were spent. Instead, Vista sold municipal bonds on the stock market and will be funding the expansion cost over the next 30 years. 

As a charter school, Vista operates independently from the Washington County School District while upholding state academic standards. Gibbs said this enables students to benefit from a slightly different approach to learning. Kids have the opportunity to participate in various elective courses in technology and the performing arts; no other school in Washington County offers coding, 3D printing or high-level dance classes as part of their curriculum, he said.

“We teach them while helping them discover what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about,” Gibbs said. “We allow so much exploration and access to different opportunities.” 

Gibbs said students come from across Washington County to attend Vista, some as far away as Enterprise and LaVerkin. Through Vista’s partnership with ACE Academy, students have the opportunity to transition directly into early college high school after graduating. Regardless of where they go after leaving Vista, they will be prepared to make a positive impact. 

“Kids leave here with a well-developed ability to engage in anything they want at the next level,” he said. “If they want to be involved in STEM or the arts, they can do that. If they want to follow a traditional educational pathway, they can do that. They’re well-rounded enough that they can jump into any program in any pathway that they choose.”  

Computer lab at the Vista School in Ivins, Utah, Nov. 16, 2020 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Barnum said Vista was created 12 years ago by members of the local community dedicated to providing a better way to educate students. It is the only school in Washington County serving kindergarten all the way through ninth grade. 

“No other school has the opportunity to mold a student’s mind in 10 years under one roof,” he said. “The way students are able to build relationships with multiple teachers and adults really sets those students up for success.” 

At Vista, educators encourage the development of the whole child. Barnum said students receive specialized instruction in math, science, technology and history beginning in first grade. After-school programs allow kids to further their interests in athletics, technology, dance, music and theater at a fraction of the typical cost of private instruction. 

Barnum invites interested parents and students to take a tour of the school to see what they’re all about. Walk through the classrooms, meet the teachers and discover everything that makes Vista special, then apply for the lottery

“We’re expanding to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “We’re excited to bring more kids to Vista to have the opportunity for a well-rounded education that they can’t get anywhere else.” 

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

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