UPDATED: Voters reject South Summit School District bond
Superintendent vows to move forward after defeat
After months of master planning, the South Summit School District’s bond measure was defeated at the polls.
The measure was voted down Tuesday night, with 1,167 residents voting against it and 939 checking their ballots for it, according to a preliminary count.
The close vote was disappointing, said Superintendent Shad Sorenson. But, he said, it is time to move forward.
“Despite the community’s vote to not bond, our commitment to preparing our students for college and career readiness will not waiver,” he said. “I am appreciative of the voices on both sides of the issue.”
The $58.65 million bond would have gone toward building a new high school, transitioning the current high school into a middle school and the middle school into a facility for third- to fifth-graders. The elementary school would have housed the younger grades. The district said the school realignment was necessary to help with overcrowding of schools. There has been enrollment growth of 15 percent in the district over the last 10 years, and that growth is projected to continue, said Kip Bigelow, business administrator for the district.
The district had not put a bond on the ballot in about 30 years prior to this year’s measure.
With the bond’s failure, the district will now be tasked with finding temporary solutions to the overcrowding issue, Sorenson said. He and the South Summit Board of Education met in few days after the vote to start conversations about potential solutions, including portables, which would remove some of the open space at the schools, or perhaps a year-round school schedule.
No changes need to be made this school year, but since all facilities in the district are at capacity, Sorenson said he would not be surprised to see portables at some schools as early as next year.
Although in previous public surveys several South Summit residents said they understood the need for bigger and more schools, many were opposed to the cost of the bond. Others thought it would be better to build an additional elementary school since it would be cheaper, Sorenson said.
Currently, no schools in the district are closed to out-of-district students, but Sorenson and Bigelow said the Board will have to consider closing them in the future.
Moving forward, Sorenson hopes to reach out to those who were against the measure and work together to find fixes to the crowded schools.
“Certainly, keeping communication open is critical as we work together to find solutions to manage growth,” he said. “Overcrowding will continue to be an issue, but we’ll do all we can to support, empower and inspire individuals to promote and achieve academic and character excellence.”
Jim Snyder, president of the Board, said school officials will not immediately make plans for another bond because there are critical things that need to be done to ensure students have appropriately sized buildings for the next few years. Some of the bond money would have been set apart for fixing outdated equipment at the existing schools, such as the air conditioning. Now, the district will need to use capitol funds to make repairs in order to keep the buildings in working condition.
“I think we had a real golden opportunity this year to, long term, save taxpayer money and really be proactive with the growth that’s coming our way, but unfortunately, the citizens didn’t see it that way,” Snyder said.
It was the second bond from a Summit County school district to fail in three years. In 2015, the Park City School District saw voters pass on a bond measure totaling $56 million. The district has since explored putting another measure on the ballot but has not been able to garner broad community support.
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The South Summit Board of Education voted 4-1 to put a bond measure on November’s ballot asking for $87 million to build a new high school.