- Hildale, Utah, was once ruled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Warren Jeffs, the sect’s disgraced ex-leader, had told parents public schools had a bad influence on their children
- The elementary school closed after less than a dozen children remained enrolled in the early 2000s
- But former sect leader Willie Jessop left the church and later worked with the district to reopen a public school there
- The principal expects 400 students to be enrolled in total by next fall
Clemence Michallon For Dailymail.com
00:14 EST, 14 May 2016
10:21 EST, 14 May 2016
A Utah city that was once run by Warren Jeffs now has a new high school, 16 years after the fundamentalist Mormon leader killed the local education system.
Hildale, which is twinned with Colorado City in Arizona, lost its elementary school after less than a dozen students were left in the early 2000s.
Jeffs, the disgraced leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had told parents sending their children to a public school would have a bad influence on them.
But now, former sect spokesman Willie Jessop has worked with the district to bring the city’s schools back to life – and the Water Canyon High School has just welcomed its first students,the Spectrum reported.
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Water Canyon High School opened in Hildale, Utah, opened last month as part of the rebirth of the local public education system. Pictured earlier this week, students attending a home economics class
The high school (pictured) is close to the city’s elementary school, which remained closed for 13 years after fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs told parents not to send their children to a public school
The high school, located in a renovated storehouse, has a gym, a computer lab, a library and brand-new hallways and classrooms.
It is close to the Water Canyon Elementary School, which opened in August 2014 to replace the defunct Phelps Elementary School.
Phelps shut down after less than a dozen students were left during the 2001-2002 school year, when it had once surpassed 400.
The new elementary school quickly attracted 150 students, then 200 – most of them children whose parents had left the fundamentalist sect, residents told the Spectrum.
With the added high school, principal Darin Thomas now expects a total of 400 students to be enrolled by next fall.
‘I’ve seen this when it was nothing but an old warehouse. I’ve taken trash out of here myself,’ Thomas told the Spectrum.
‘It’s been truly a blessing in my life to bring education back into a place that didn’t have an educational system for a decade or more.’
Jeffs (pictured left in 2006) is currently serving a prison sentence of life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two teenage girls. Willie Jessop (pictured right in 2008), a former spokesman for the sect, later disavowed Jeffs and has worked to rebuild Hildale’s school system
Water Canyon High School is located in a renovated storehouse and has a gym (pictured), a computer lab, a library and brand-new hallways and classrooms
Principal Darin Thomas now expects a total of 400 students to be enrolled by next fall at Hildale’s elementary school and high school. Pictured on Friday, high school students attending classes
The rebirth of Hildale’s public education system came in part after Willie Jessop, a former leader for left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2011.
Jessop, who later disavowed Jeffs, worked with the district after gaining ownership of the former Phelps school site according to the Spectrum.
Meanwhile Jeffs is serving a prison sentence of life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two underage girls whom he had made his wives.
The former guru, who is now 60, had an estimated 60 children with 78 wives.
He landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 2006 due to the allegations of sexual assault against him.
The girls involved in the two cases that led to his conviction were 12 and 15 years old.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which separated from mainstream Mormonism in 1890 after it banned polygamy, had about 10,000 followers at the time across Hildale and Colorado City.
Jeffs’s adult son and daughter, Roy and Becky, told CNN in October last year that their father had molested them as children.
They are two of four of his children who have left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
A jury found earlier this year that the sect had intentionally sabotaged residents considered as enemies as part of the police departments and municipal governments of Hildale and Colorado City, the Los Angeles Times reported.
They harassed and intimidated nonbelievers and denied them services, the jury found.
Marks of Jeffs’s past leadership remain, such as unfinished buildings abandoned in 2005 – when Jeffs ordered that all construction be halted so that the money could go to his church instead.
Most of the city’s students are children whose parents have left the fundamentalist sect, residents said. Pictured on Friday, students attend classes at Water Canyon High School