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The McGillis School Turns 30!

The McGillis School Turns 30!


As our students return to school on August 24, The McGillis School will be celebrating our 30th anniversary. The School has come a long way since its beginning, when it was founded in 1990 with 12 students as an extension of the Salt Lake City Jewish Community Center.  The Jewish Community Center Elementary School was the vision of a small group of founding parents who sought to continue the educational philosophy and Jewish-values-based education their children had experienced at the JCC preschool. Today, the values remain as the School’s foundation.


"Celebrating this milestone gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the strength of our values which guided us our first thirty years.  As we look ahead to our future, we envision ourselves anchored and inspired by these same values, committed to teaching our students to live and learn ethically and be engaged citizens ready to create a better world", Ellen Rossi, Chair, McGillis Board of Trustees.


In 2000, the Jewish Community Center Elementary School was renamed The McGillis JCC Elementary School in honor of Joanne and Richard McGillis for their ongoing support of the School. After being housed at the Kol Ami Synagogue for eight years, the School moved to the old Jewish Community Center building on 1700 South in 2001. Over 12 years, the school grew from one class of eleven students to six classes with 110 students.


In the spring of 2002, the School gained 501(c)3 not-for-profit status, incorporated, and became an independent entity. On December 7, 2002, the School purchased the historic Douglas School, completely renovated the building, and opened its doors to students on September 1, 2003. Named for its primary benefactors, The McGillis School began the 2003/2004 school year with 129 students in 1st through 7th grades.   


In 2004/2005, the school began to double the number of classrooms per grade level, beginning with the addition of a second first grade class. The first class of 8th grade students graduated from The McGillis School in 2005. The school also became a candidate member of the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS), gaining full accredited status in 2007.


In the fall of 2008, the school year opened with 259 students with two classrooms each in first through fifth grades. The launch of the “Building on Success” $10 million capital campaign was launched to construct a 57,000 square feet LEEDS certified building.   


In August 2010, The McGillis School opened its doors to the completed expansion with over 320 students in kindergarten through 8th grades. With the addition of an environmentally healthy and energy-efficient space, the School enriched its already robust, ethics-infused academic curriculum.



In August 2020, the School expanded its program by launching The Learning Center -- a division devoted to students with language-based learning differences including dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Launching with 11 students, the program doubled in size and opens the 2021/2022 school year with 23 students in 2nd through 6th grades.


"Reviewing our history and understanding our origins inspires our future. In this future, we aim for our children to build upon the School’s purpose, as well as the vision of the School’s founders, and continue to offer families an innovative and ethical education program for the next generation of leaders, critical thinkers, and change-makers”, Jim Brewer, Head of The McGillis School. 


Today, The McGillis School enrolls nearly 400 students across our Lower School, Middle School, and The Learning Center divisions. And we continue to build upon and innovate our program in order to continuously inspire and prepare our community for a lifetime of creating a better world.


Parents and friends of McGillis will kickoff off the anniversary celebration with a community storytelling  event Saturday, November 13 at 7 PM at McGillis. Invitations to contribute and share stories will be shared in the coming weeks.


Other celebrations will include a Community Celebration at the end of the school year. Details to be announced. 


We look forward to celebrating as a community throughout the year!