Committee: South Summit needs to build new school
Location of site, other details, have not been determined
The South Summit School District will likely build a new school to deal with enrollment totals that are expected to rise in coming years even as the current buildings are already bursting at the seams.
That is the conclusion of a committee the district formed to evaluate capital needs, said Kip Bigelow, the district’s business administrator. The committee, which began working with an architect this fall, is scheduled to meet once more in early January and will ultimately send a recommendation to the South Summit Board of Education.
The Board would then have to vote on a proposal to make a project official.
“With the anticipated growth, I think it’s been pretty much decided — at least at a committee level — that we are in need of a new school,” Bigelow said. “They’ve looked at making additions to schools and new schools, and various different proposals have been out on the table, but at this point it appears that the recommendation will probably be to build a new school.”
Several important details have yet to be hammered out, however. Bigelow said the committee has not determined whether the new building would be an elementary school or a secondary school, and that decision would affect how grades are restructured throughout the district to account for the new building.
Additionally, no location for the school has been chosen. The Board, though, is considering whether to purchase a plot of land available within the Kamas city limits that could ultimately be the site. Citing ongoing negotiations, Bigelow declined to divulge the address of the land, but said the deadline for the Board to decide is Jan. 31.
The answers to many of the questions surrounding a possible new school will become more clear when the committee brings its findings to the public, Bigelow said. The district is set to hold several community input sessions early next year, beginning Jan. 31, before the Board makes any final decisions.
Bigelow is hopeful the community, recognizing how crowded school halls have become, will rally behind a plan and allow the district to move quickly forward.
“Hopefully after the first couple of these community meetings, we’ll have a sense of how the community feels and what needs to be done and if they’re supportive or not,” he said. “I think the majority of the community understands that the growth is coming and will have an impact on the schools and that something needs to be done.”
Bigelow said no timeline has been set for getting the Board’s approval for a project. However, if the district chooses to ask for taxpayer support through a bond — which is likely — it would aim to get a measure on the ballot in next year’s general election.
“The one hard deadline we have is, if we are going to move forward and there’s a need for bonding, we need to have that prepared and ready to go on next November’s ballot,” he said.
The total cost of the potential project is unclear, but it would also include about $30 million in renovations to extend the useful lives of the district’s three current buildings, Bigelow said. Those repairs would not include additions onto the schools, a possibility the committee decided against. The district has roughly $15 million set aside for capital projects.
If the district does build a new school in the Kamas area, it’s unlikely that will settle its capital needs for the long-term. The district still anticipates about 400 new students to eventually come from the Silver Creek Village development southeast of the Interstate 80/U.S. 40 interchange, a nearly 20-minute drive from Kamas.
Bigelow said there’s a “very good possibility” the district will eventually build a school in the Silver Creek area in the future, once the amount of students there warrants it.
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