ENOCH — Gateway Preparatory Academy officials announced the acquisition of 10 acres of property and subsequent expansion plans during a special program connected to the charter school’s annual “International Day” celebration on Friday.
The festivities, which are intended to raise awareness of different world cultures, began with a student parade outside featuring hundreds of students, many of whom were dressed up in outfits representing different nations and cultures.
Following the parade, the students, along with parents and other members of the community, went inside the building for the remainder of the program, which had been promoted as having a “special announcement.”
The program included a tribute to the school’s longtime director, Andrew Burt, who died on Oct. 2. Attendees watched a short presentation that included photos and video clips of the popular principal interacting with students, which was followed by a performance of one of Burt’s favorite songs by the students and staff.
Brittany Jensen, chair of the school’s board of directors, spoke following the tribute and said the school has experienced “tremendous growth” since its founding over a decade ago and that Burt and the other board members had been exploring several different possibilities for expansion over the past couple years.
“We have sought diligently to find which direction would make the most impact,” Jensen said. “These prospects have been an especially bright spot of the past year and a half, as we have been able to look to the future with optimism for what is yet to be.”
Jensen said that at the last board meeting with Burt, they had decided to share their “exciting announcement” with the school and community on International Day, which was one of the former director’s favorite events at the school.
“While we miss having him with us as we move forward on this journey, we are dedicated to carrying on the vision we’ve been creating together and seeing it come to fruition,” she said.
Jensen then announced that Gateway has purchased a 10-acre piece of property with expansion in mind. The undeveloped parcel adjoining the current school property to the west is roughly twice the size of the existing campus, meaning it will effectively triple the size of the school’s grounds.
Gateway Preparatory Academy, founded in Enoch in 2008 as Montessori charter school, has a current enrollment of approximately 500 children on campus in grades K-8.
As Jensen spoke, several conceptual drawings were projected on a screen above her, each depicting a possible future facility or project. Some of the ideas being considered include an outdoor classroom/amphitheater with a nature walk area, a new playground area and a field house.
“The field house, which Director Burt was especially excited about and which we imagine as the Andy Burt Memorial Field House, would include a large indoor field as well as a couple of big open classrooms that can serve a variety of purposes,” Jensen said. “In addition to being utilized as indoor PE and learning space during our long winters, the field house could also be used for community sports and events during after school hours.”
Eventually, Jensen added, a new middle-school building is planned for the students in the upper grades, which would include a performing arts space and creator spaces for art and STEM.
Jensen noted that the various expansion plans are aligned with the school’s stated mission, which is as follows:
To provide children an individualized education emphasizing practical life skills and demonstrations of student learning in a safe, respectful, and supportive environment.
Earlier in the program, Steve Nelson, Burt’s longtime friend and fellow soccer coach, as well as chair of the board at the time of the school’s founding, lauded Burt’s leadership and problem-solving abilities, which he said helped the school make it through some difficult times during its formative years.
“There was the challenge of getting a full staff of teachers that understood and believed in Montessori and were trained to be able to teach a different model that wasn’t direct instruction,” Nelson said, noting that Burt was instrumental in elevating the school and its educational programs, along with the public’s perception of them.
“I have been amazed to watch over the years and see him serve in that role and how the school has changed,” Nelson added. “He was the right leader for the time. He had the ability, I think, to listen to everybody.”
Jensen said the board and school administrative team are looking forward to collaborating with community members regarding the expansion plans.
“We would like for it to be not only a space for Gateway but a space for our larger community as well,” she said. “Central to this vision will be soliciting input from the community as we form our project committees. … We are so excited for the growth and opportunities this land acquisition opens up to us and look forward to working together to see many dreams become a reality.”
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