South Summit School District bond is smart and sorely needed
The Park Record editorial, Sept. 27-29, 2017
It has been nearly 30 years since the South Summit School District last asked its constituents to approve a bond. Since then enrollment has steadily increased – more than 15 percent in the last decade, with a 5.6 percent increase expected this year over last. For the most part, students are attending classes in the same facilities they have used for nearly three decades. (South Summit High School was built in 1990, the middle school was built in 1980 and the elementary school was built in 1986.)
There have been a handful of remodels and the district has implemented several creative measures to create additional classroom space (single classrooms have been subdivided and classes are also held in the high school library and at the district office building, for instance), but according to district officials, they are “flat out of space.”
And, as anyone who has driven through the Kamas Valley can attest to, new single family homes are being built at a rapid pace, giving rise to concerns that all three schools will be significantly over capacity within five years.
To cope with current overcrowding and new growth, the South Summit Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $58.65 million bond on the upcoming General Election ballot. The cost to property owners will be about $96 per year per $100,000 of taxable value on a single-family home and $174 per year per $100,000 for a business property.
The lion’s share of the bond will be used to build a new high school on a large parcel of land west of Kamas, near but not adjacent to the current campus on the east side of town.
Building a much-needed secondary school that can provide a more competitive high tech learning environment for South Summit students is essential. It will also alleviate pressure on the existing campus where elementary- and middle-schoolers will then be able to spread out over the three facilities.
Once the new high school is available, the elementary school, currently serving kindergarten through fourth grade, will house pre-K through second grade. The middle school will go from serving grades five through eight to housing grades three through five and the high school will be converted into an intermediate school for grades six through eight. The trickle-down effect will give every grade more breathing room and allow administrators to focus on more specific age groups.
Admittedly, the cost to taxpayers is significant, but the plan is well conceived and has already garnered significant community support. It offers benefits at every grade level and anticipates population growth that is already cascading into the region. When South Summit School District voters receive their ballots in mid-October, whether they have students in the schools or not, they should think of the bond as a wise investment in maintaining a quality educational system, one of the top hallmarks of a healthy community.