St.. George, Utah -- The Washington County School District announced Tuesday its intent to reopen the Hildale School in time for the upcoming school year 13 years after it closed.
Superintendent Larry Bergeson said the school closed more than a decade ago at the request of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ leader Warren Jeffs and the fellow church community.
“The school was shut down at the request of the leadership of the church community at the time — they wanted us out,” Bergeson said. “Now, it’s under the community’s request, not the church, that we return.”
Bergeson said Darin Thomas will be school’s new principal and hiring for teachers and support staff is underway — as enrollment settles, the district will assess the hiring needs.
“We are excited for the opportunity to go up there and fulfill the educational needs of the community,” Bergeson said.
Since the school closed 13 years ago, the students in the Hildale area have been going to a school in Colorado City in Arizona at the expense of the Washington County School District, Bergeson said.
Thomas said he is looking forward to the opportunity to take on the leadership role at the school.
“Really honored that the school board chose me,” he said. “I am really excited to work with the community out there and the children. To have the opportunity to open from ground zero … it’s really going to be quite an awesome experience — one I think we will do correctly so the students of Hildale will have quality education.”
Thomas said he is helping with the hiring and looks forward to bringing in quality teachers to address the educational needs of the Hildale youth.
“I plan to be very hands-on with the hiring,” he said. “I want the best teachers, the ones that are highly qualified and ready for a challenge. It is going to be a challenge with opening this school, so I need teachers that are up to the task. It will be difficult at times getting ready, but it is going to be worth it.”
Thomas said so far community response in Hildale is positive about the school reopening.
“The community is going to be impressed,” he said.
Having worked previously in business and as a Title I coordinator at Washington Elementary, Thomas said he feels prepared to take on the new role as principal.
Thomas said after the first four years of opening the K-12 school, there are tentative plans to expand the school to separate the elementary and high school grades into different buildings.
“We have a lot of work to do for the next two months, but we will be ready to go with the kids on Aug. 11 with the rest of the district,” he said.
It is unclear how many students will be enrolled at the new school, but Bergeson said he estimates around 150, since that is the number currently going to the school in Arizona from Hildale.
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