South Summit School District begins master planning process | ParkRecord.com

South Summit School District begins master planning process

The South Summit School District’s master planning process has begun.

On Friday, the district formally opened a search for an outside firm to assess its facilities and help create a master plan. Kip Bigelow, the district’s business administrator, said the move comes as all three schools are at or nearing capacity, with an additional influx of up to 750 students possible in the coming years as families begin moving into the Silver Creek Village development southeast of the Interstate 80/U.S. 40.

"It’s just starting the overall process so we can have a basis to make some more critical decisions," he said.

The timeline is not finalized, but Bigelow expects the district to hire a firm by early February. The firm will be expected to examine the condition of the existing schools and capacity needs; analyze whether land the district owns in Oakley, Francis and Promontory are suitable to build new schools on; and provide enrollment projections.

The firm would likely spend at least four months digging into the district’s situation, meaning answers likely won’t come before the summer, Bigelow said.

"Everything is on the table," he said.

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Capacity issues are driving the district to evaluate its capital needs. The Oct. 1 head count — the one the state uses to dole out funding — saw growth at just under 1 percent, though Bigelow expects steady growth around 2 percent in the future.

"I don’t see it being a whole lot more than (1 percent) next year," he said. "Two or three years out, I anticipate the growth going to 1.5 to 2 percent. Obviously economic conditions throughout the community could have some impact on that, either for good or for bad. But we kind of think we’ll stay right around 2 percent or less."

But even that modest growth could cause big problems if the district doesn’t address the capacity problems, Bigelow said. The high school is already at capacity, while the elementary school and middle school aren’t far behind. So if growth in any given year is clustered in one school, it would mean big trouble.

"We try to keep the elementary somewhere around 600, and we’re at 595 right now," Bigelow said. "The middle school is kind of the same scenario — it’s basically built for a little more than 500, and we’re at 496. So all of our buildings are starting to reach that enrollment capacity."

The Silver Creek Village development complicates the master planning process. The development is slated to include 1,290 housing units, so more students are certain to come into the district. However, the problem lies in predicting how many, exactly, there will be — and when they will arrive. Eventually, the district could build a school at the site if enough students are there — Bigelow said it could be a K-12, an elementary or a secondary — but in the meantime, students will have to attend the current schools in Kamas, which already are bulging.

"It’s a big variable," Bigelow said. "As we start to get students there, obviously there’s going to have to be enough growth to warrant it before we put a building in that area. So that brings a more immediate decision, and that’s the transportation of those students to our current schools until we do get something in place over there."

Master planning has just begun, but Bigelow believes the district at the very least will have to build an expansion to the high school. The district has $13.5 million in a building reserve fund, but might have to find other funding if the scope of the projects includes several capital improvements.

"There is a potential that we may have to go to the voters and ask for a bond, depending on how widespread this is and whether there are going to be major renovations at our current schools in addition to new schools," Bigelow said. "It’s definitely a possibility of a bond in the future."