South Summit School District continues to grow amid conversations for a bond
December 19, 2018
South Summit School District is bursting at the seams, but it was able to squeeze in a few dozen more students this year.
The district reported 3.49 percent growth in student enrollment this school year. The increase puts further stress on a district desperate for a solution to an expanding population that has stretched schools to their limits.
Kip Bigelow, business administrator for South Summit, said 57 students came into the district at the start of the school year. He said the district anticipated the growth, which was comparable to the last few years.
He said most of the new students are attending Silver Summit Academy, the district's blended-learning school that focuses on technology-driven education and flexible schedules. Many students from outside the district began attending the school this year.
Even though the schools in the district are at or above capacity, the district remains open to students from outside district boundaries, said Superintendent Shad Sorenson. School districts in Utah can decide to not permit students from outside the district if it is determined that the schools are not able to handle the extra students.
Sorenson said part of the reason the district remains open to out-of-boundary enrollment is because a parcel of land in Woodland is part of Wasatch County School District, but several of the families who live there send their children to South Summit. If the district were to close enrollment to outside students, it would impact families in the area.
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But, Sorenson said, the district might have to consider closing open enrollment if the growth persists. This year, South Summit High School continued to repurpose its media center to be used for classrooms. Now, the school does not have a media center.
The high school's family and consumer science area was converted into classrooms two years ago, Bigelow said.
"It's an ongoing thing just as the population continues to change," he said.
He said the district tries to keep class sizes in the low 20s for the elementary school and the upper 20s in the middle school and high school, but the lack of classroom space is forcing the district to increase class sizes. Sorenson said a couple of the high school classes have about 35 students in them. Sorenson said the Silver Summit Academy, which opened in the spring, is helping distribute students across the district as well.
He said the increasing student population is escalating the urgency to pass a bond for capital improvements. The district put a bond question on the ballot in 2017 that would have paid for a new high school, but it was voted down. The district planned to realign grades in order to provide more space for students throughout the schools.
The South Summit Board of Education decided this fall in an unofficial vote that it will put a similar bond question on the ballot next year.
Bigelow said the Board recently received enrollment projections for the next 10 years from a consulting firm as part of planning for a bond. The reports showed that enrollment could be up by 48 percent in a decade. He said the projections are similar to the results of a study performed two years ago while the Board was considering the 2017 bond measure.
The district is currently working with architects to begin designs for a high school and determine the cost of construction. Bigelow said no amount has been set yet for the bond, but he said construction costs have gone up over the last couple of years.
Sorenson said Board members plan to start holding community meetings to educate the public about the bond early next year. The Board has said that poor communication with constituents was one of the reasons the prior bond effort failed last year, which is something it hopes to improve this time around in order to get the bond passed.