South Summit School District explores $90 million bond to construct two new schools
March 13, 2019
The South Summit School District asked its constituents in 2017 to support a $58.65 million bond to construct a new high school. Voters rejected the proposal, but the district intends to place a bond on the ballot again in the fall. This time, the bond amount will be significantly larger.
The South Summit Board of Education decided at its last meeting to move forward with plans to propose a $90.74 million bond to fund the construction of a new high school and an elementary school in the Silver Creek neighborhood. Suni Woolstenhulme, president of the Board, said the current schools in the district are overpopulated, and new schools would help redistribute the student population.
The high school, which would be located on the district's property just west of Kamas, was included in the district's bond in 2017, but the elementary school in Silver Creek is a new addition. Superintendent Shad Sorenson said the district has considered building a school in the area for the last few years because of expanding housing developments, particularly the ongoing development Silver Creek Village off U.S. 40.
The district opened its first school in the Silver Creek neighborhood, Silver Summit Academy, a couple years ago. The blended-learning academy includes a small high school and an elementary school.
As a Board of Education, we really are trying hard to put into place a plan,” Suni Woolstenhulme, South Summit Board of Education president
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The proposal represents a significant change from a four-phase master plan the district released a few months ago. Building Silver Summit Academy was part of phase one, which the district completed. The next step was to construct a new high school. The plan indicated the district intended to turn a building it owns next to Silver Summit Academy into a temporary elementary school for a few years to meet the demand from families moving into the area. Then, sometime after 2025, the district would construct a full elementary school in the area and transform the Silver Summit Academy building into a middle school.
Sorenson said the district wanted to be ready with an elementary school because families might start moving into Silver Creek Village as early as next year. But, building a temporary elementary school seemed like a waste.
"Recognizing the growth that would be coming in, it didn't seem to make sense to put renovation money into making (Silver Summit Academy) an elementary and then to transition it to a middle school," he said.
The district does not plan to construct a full elementary school in Silver Creek with the initial funds from the bond, Sorenson said. The school would be small and have a capacity of 264 students. It would include classrooms, a cafeteria and gymnasium, and the district would expand the building in the future, Woolstenhulme said.
"As growth moves into the area, it could easily be added onto," she said.
The building would cost about $16.1 million, according to Kip Bigelow, business administrator for the district.
The district is currently looking to buy land in Silver Summit in order to construct the school. Construction would likely start after the high school is completed.
Design renderings for the high school are not yet finalized, but Woolstenhulme said the initial plans are similar to ones included in the 2017 bond. One of the biggest differences is that the school would be bigger. The high school planned in 2017 would have fit 630 students, and the district intended to expand the building over time. The current version of the new high school would be able to fit 750 students. The high school is expected to cost $74.6 million to construct, Bigelow said. He said rising construction costs and the decision to build a bigger school contributed to the price jump from the $58.65 million bond.
According to preliminary estimates, a primary resident with an average home value of $438,000 would end up paying about $715 annually, he said.
If the district constructs a new high school, it would realign the grade structure. The current high school would become a middle school for grades six through eight, the middle school would house grades three through five and the elementary school would be for preschool through second grade.
Woolstenhulme said one of the questions the Board is currently working through is whether or not to include athletic facilities with the new high school. New athletic facilities were a cause of contention with the 2017 bond because many people said the ones at the current high school are in good condition.
If the Board does not include athletic facilities with the new bond, the bond would drop from $90.74 million to $83 million, Woolstenhulme said.
She said the Board is aware that the jump from $58.65 million to $90.74 million is significant, but Board members agreed that the community needs the two schools. The district has had continued growth over the last several years, and all schools are either at or above capacity.
But, Woolstenhulme said, the Board has not made any final decisions. The Board will need to have an official vote on whether or not to place a bond on the November ballot in the summer. Woolstenhulme said the Board wants to receive feedback from the public on the options before that time.
"As a Board of Education, we really are trying hard to put into place a plan," she said. "I really hope that the community really reciprocates and responds and will take the time to come and have their questions answered."
The Board is expected to continue to discuss the bond during its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 14. It also plans to host an event on March 21 at 6 p.m. to talk about the tax impact on residents living within the district boundaries. Representatives from Zions Bank, which the district has been working with through the bond process, are expected to present the information in South Summit High School's gym. Woolstenhulme said the Board also plans to send a flyer in the next few weeks to inform the public about the bond and any upcoming meetings.