A private school that has incorporated Latter-day Saint teachings into elementary and secondary education for half a century will open a campus in Salt Lake City next year.
American Heritage School will rent a building from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints two blocks from Temple Square, school officials said. The school is independent from the church.
The building is currently a stake center for the church and will be converted into a K-8 school from fall 2022. School authorities plan to add high school students as soon as possible, said Grant Beckwith, American Heritage principal.
Beckwith said the new campus will help American Heritage reach a more diverse group of students, 40 miles north of the existing site.
“The Salt Lake City campus will allow us to advance our mission of making our school accessible in ways that we cannot do from American Fork,” he said. “Fundraising from donors to fund scholarships for students will be an important part of this effort and will help us reach a wider range of socio-economic students.”
American Heritage recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The school was founded in 1970 by a group of professors from Brigham Young University after the university closed BY High and BY Elementary.
American Heritage is already one of the largest private schools in Utah. The school’s campus in American Fork offers 1,100 students K-12 education on 40 acres.
American Heritage is a nonprofit school that does not accept federal, state, or local tax revenues.
However, it has a strong history of donor support. According to their website, the school has raised $ 100 million since 2001. The donors will cover all of the school’s capital expenditures and will pay for any necessary upgrades to the Salt Lake building at 142 W. 200 North, Beckwith said. Tuition fees include teachers’ salaries and curriculum needs.
Last year high school tuition was $ 9,717. The cost of middle school ($ 8,233) and first through sixth grades ($ 7,922) were lower. Donations cover substantial financial support for many students. Interested families can view the admission process at american-heritage.org/admissions-process.
The school pioneered both a worldwide home curriculum and software to provide full K-12 online education. American Heritage Worldwide has 5,000 students in 49 states and 36 countries and offers parents what Beckwith called a “swing door” model. Students can move their education on and off campus if they move or have other needs.
The curriculum emphasizes an appreciation for America’s foundation and Latter-day Saint belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church were restored to the earth through Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Church members make up 97 percent of the student body. As on the American Fork campus, students on the Salt Lake campus will wear uniforms and follow a code of honor.
“The story of American heritage is a Christian story,” said Beckwith. “We focus on America’s Christian heritage.”
He said interest in the school has increased in recent years, even as more Americans say they no longer belong to any church.
“This is an interesting turning point for faith communities and those who believe that the faith has historically not been well represented,” Beckwith said. “Our goal is to get parents involved and to help them offer an education that corresponds to their values.”
The principal said the Salt Lake campus location will be a boon to the curriculum.
“We are happy to be close to Temple Square with all of its public resources such as the Church History Museum and the Family History Library.”
Opening planned for August 2022
The new director of the Salt Lake campus will be Leland Anderson, who said the goal is to open in August 2022 with 200-250 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Anderson earned a master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard and an English teaching degree from BYU. He recently completed a five-year tenure as a principal at the Shenzhen RDF International School in China. He grew up in the Salt Lake Valley and said he looked forward to helping build American Heritage in Salt Lake City.
Anderson is confident that Salt Lake City’s density will help the school meet its student goal as more families move to downtown. The school also expects to attract families from the rest of the Salt Lake Valley and Davis Counties.
“There actually are more children living within a mile, five, ten miles of the Salt Lake campus than the American Fork campus,” said Beckwith, “when the parents are ready to drive a little.”
History shows that parents will keep driving. That year there were students on American Fork campus commuting north to Bountiful and south to Nephi.
Beckwith said the school expects to meet with the Salt Lake City planning department next week once a lease is in place. Then architects and construction companies are hired to bring the building up to date for a school.
Beckwith said the school plans to hire teachers for the Salt Lake campus in the spring of 2022. The Salt Lake campus will offer extra-curricular orchestral, choir, athletics, and summer school programs.
The American Heritage School’s 2020 senior class averaged 26 points on the ACT; the Utah average is 20. Of those who applied to BYU, 80% were admitted, according to the school’s annual report.
American Heritage School Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dan Burton said the board looks forward to adding a campus in Utah’s capital city.
“We are excited to offer families who work and live in and around downtown Salt Lake yet another opportunity to raise their children,” he said, “and we are grateful to be able to contribute to the diverse and rich educational ecosystem which has been a trademark of the Salt Lake area for many years. ”