New high school could be coming to South Summit
District considers bond measure to alleviate overcrowding
If the South Summit School District gets its way, a new high school will be rising in the Kamas Valley.
After a months-long planning process to resolve the severe overcrowding issues in its schools, the district has settled on a solution: Build a new high school and realign the grade structure to spread the student body over four facilities instead of three.
A master-planning committee recommended that option to the Board of Education instead of an alternative plan calling for two new elementary schools after holding community input sessions this spring. Superintendent Shad Sorenson said consensus formed around the new high school because it would be an opportunity to simultaneously alleviate some of the deficiencies of the current high school and transform the educational experience for students throughout the district.
For instance, a typical high school sits on about 40 acres of land, Sorenson said. The district’s current three schools occupy about that much space together, so a new high school would provide space for more amenities than the current campus holds. And the existing schools would benefit from an influx of free space that could be used for things like collaboration areas.
The new high school would be designed from the ground up to provide the type of 21st-century education the district strives to give students, he added.
“We’d be able to bring the college classes and concurrent enrollment classes back into the facility because now students are leaving the high school and coming to the district office for those,” Sorenson said, offering an example.
The school wouldn’t come cheap, however. The district intends to ask for the public’s help to pay for it — as well as necessary capital improvements to the existing schools — in the form of a bond measure this fall that is expected to be in the $57 million range, Sorenson said.
The Board of Education won’t formally vote on whether to go to bond until August, but Sorenson said his sense is that the community would support a bond because they understand how critical it is to open up more space within the schools.
“My role and the role of other district staff and community members that understand this is to make sure that conversations are happening every day and people are well educated about this,” he said. “My goal is not to encourage somebody to vote ‘yes’ or vote ‘no.’ My goal is to make sure they know all the facts, then they can vote appropriately.”
Sorenson said the district has yet to finalize a site for a new high school, but is looking to purchase land near where S.R. 248 enters the Kamas Valley. In community outreach sessions, residents felt strongly that the school should be in Kamas proper.
“If that’s not available, we will look at other options,” he said. “But that just makes the most sense.”
If a bond passes this fall, the district hopes to complete the new school by the 2021-2022 school year, Sorenson said. At that time, grades would be realigned in the following structure: The current elementary school would hold grades kindergarten through two, the middle school would teach grades three through five and the current high school building would become a middle school, housing sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
A new high school would be coupled with the Silver Summit Academy, a K-12 blended-learning facility the district is set to open in August in Silver Summit near Park City. The district is aiming for the school — which any student can choose to attend — to alleviate some of the overcrowding within its current buildings. It will also establish a presence in the Silver Summit area as a large housing development there comes online that could eventually bring hundreds of students into South Summit classrooms.
If a bond measure fails this fall, Sorenson said the capacity issues will only become more dire and will require more creative solutions. One that school officials have discussed is moving to a year-round schedule in which some students attend during certain parts of the year while others attend in different months.
School officials want to avoid that if at all possible, he said.
“There were quite a few schools going to year-round in Utah, and it has fizzled so much because it doesn’t work well with families,” he said. “It’s very challenging to do, especially (for secondary schools).”
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Park City High School students have had to adjust to remote learning once more after a spike in coronavirus cases forced the school to temporarily close its doors.