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Sugar House Journal

Garfield Academy settles into Sugar House neighborhood

Sep 17, 2018 16h19 ● By Jana Klopsch

The new playground in the front of Garfield Academy. (Allison A. Moore/City Journals)

By Allison A. Moore | [email protected] 

Garfield Academy, located at 1818 S. 1500 East, recently opened its doors in the Sugar House neighborhood. 

Garfield is an inclusive Montessori school and part of the Elizabeth Academy in Millcreek. Elizabeth offers early childhood development, elementary and middle school and Garfield Academy continues through grades nine and ten. Executive Director Gail Williamson said the school will add additional grades through twelfth in the coming years. 

Garfield already offers early childhood and toddler classes and will offer infant care in the future. 

“We don’t have an infant class yet, because we are still developing the program,” Williamson said. “As we develop a program, we need to develop competent people to serve that program and we’re not there yet and the facility isn’t there yet.” The two campus programs would offer an elementary education through high school. 

 Built in 1921, Garfield Elementary was part of the Salt Lake City School District, until being sold in the 1970s. The school was bought by the city in 2006 and then by Westminster College who sold it in 2016 to Elizabeth Academy. 

The school, in partnership with Westminster, has plans on become a lab school offering training and education for Montessori teachers and students. Williamson explained, “Montessori training currently happens at Westminster, a college accredited program where you can get a degree and a certificate is a really great and reputable program that people come from out of state to attend.”  

Steve Morgan, the recently retired president of Westminster and current board member of Elizabeth Academy, has been instrumental in the development of the program, Williamson said. 

“The purpose of the school is to be a model of inclusive education for public schools. We would like to create sustainability as a model, so we are always innovating, but not for the purpose to grow ourselves. It’s to get better as a model so this type of inclusive education can be replicated,” she said. By offering an inclusive education the school has completely integrated classrooms; students remain together for three-year terms and special needs students make up 15-20 percent of the enrollment, consistent with society as a whole. This offers a community-based learning environment with small classes and study programs tailored to the individual.

Field trips are held around the local community with students taking learning walks, visiting businesses or colleges to learn about economy and employment. The students often go behind the school or gully and collect water samples and other samples for science and have even talked with Westminster about working with them in the future. The area is their playground, their hiking spot and nature trail. 

Garfield Academy has worked to keep the old school charm. Evidenced by the original brick facade of the building which maintains the familiar feel of the neighborhood. The interior, although primarily new, has a style consistent with the 1920s. Bright, colorful and warm with tons of natural sunlight, the refinished school is an inviting place and a welcome addition to the neighborhood.