South Summit may see need for new school
January 15, 2014
South Summit School District’s population has slowly but steadily increased in the past several years, and the approval of a new development just inside school district boundaries may warrant a new school building in the small district, according to district Superintendent Barry Walker.
When enrollment numbers were tallied in October, the district showed a 2 percent increase from 1,477 students last school year. The growth is not significant enough to build a new elementary school as of right now, but the new Silver Creek Village development off east U.S. 40, just north of I-80, may create a population surge sufficient enough for one, Walker said.
Summit County manager Robert Jasper said the development was proposed about a year and a half ago but was not approved until recently. Developers now have an extended amount of time before they have to obtain a building permit to start building out, he said.
The development will be a combination of townhouses, single-home dwellings, multiple family apartments and affordable housing. Walker said the development is just inside their boundaries, but the 1,200 units may not house enough children for a new school building right away, which presents a problem.
"We would need a fairly decent sized student body to accommodate associated cost, such as teacher salaries, electricity bills and other things like that," Walker said. "We would have to wait until there was a sizeable population large enough to build the school."
He said the developers set aside a parcel of ground within the property to build a school if they need to, but until then, the district is in preliminary talks with the Park City School District to see what accommodations can be made for potential students until a new school is built.
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Students currently living in the Silver Creek area are being educated through the Park City School District, which is legal through their open enrollment policy. The schools are closer and easier for students to get to, and if there are not enough students living in the new Silver Creek Village development, Walker said he hopes arrangements can be made to best serve the students.
"We are in talks with PCSD to teach them until there are sufficient student numbers worthwhile to building a school," Walker said. "If PCSD is full, we would have to transport these kids until there are enough students and it is feasible to build a new building. That in-between time is why we have been talking with PCSD, to meet the needs of those students and not make it so uncomfortable, because it is a good, long bus ride from there to Kamas."
Jasper said as far as he knows, the two school districts have had some rough discussions about whether or not to adjust school district boundaries, but under state law, both districts must approve any changes; it must be a mutual agreement.
Another concern Walker had was property tax revenue for the district from the new development. The district currently receives some tax revenue from Silver Creek property owners, he said, and with the new development, tax revenue will increase, which means more money to cover their needs.
However, he said property tax alone does not cover the cost of students, and the hope is for the building development to offset cost.
"The concern is the fact that if you build a development with no businesses to go along with it, property tax won’t pay the full cost of the students," Walker said. "It could be a financial impact on the district to build a school over there with no business around it to bring in additional revenue."
Whatever concerns Walker may have about building a new school, while pressing, will most likely not need to be addressed any time soon. Walker said he doesn’t expect construction on the development to begin for another couple of years. Until then, he and the Park City School District are preparing.
"They are in our district boundaries, so we are responsible for making sure those kids get educated, but it has been interesting visiting with PCSD for other solutions," Walker said. "We are looking for the best solution possible, and we are both interested in looking out for the kids."
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