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South Summit School District Preparing For 2019 Bond Push

After a failed attempt to pass a bond for a new high school in 2017, the South Summit School District is working again to bond for a new high school.

The South Summit School District has sent out an informative mailer about the districts vision for future growth. Superintendent Shad Sorenson says the district is trying to inform voters.

“As a district we have a responsibility to educate our citizens and our stakeholders. Our role is not to persuade but inform. One of the things that we learned from our previous bond is that we relied very heavily on social media and online resources. As we talk to people, they didn’t feel that they had the facts, they wanted information in their hands. This is the first of probably two or three mailers that we will do in addition to online information.”

Sorenson said they worked hard to make sure the mailer was informational and not advocating either way.

“We did a thorough review of this before publishing it. What we wanted to make sure is that every statement that we listed was factual. We have been in contact with the attorney general’s office, etc. because there has been concern in the past of districts overstepping that line and we do not want to do that. We just want to make sure our constituents have the information that they need to make the informed choice.”

Voters in the South Summit School District rejected a proposed bond for a new high school in 2017. Sorenson says there are some benefits from passing the bond now instead of 2017 but overall the delay will be more expensive for the district.

“In 2017 interest was 3.09 it currently has dropped to 3.03 so that is in our favor that is a positive. Also, the district valuation has increase from $1.8 billion to $1.9. The drawback is the cost of construction. Some of the prices that are being bid on schools is $315 a square foot. Which is crazy. I was talking to a superintendent that just opened a new high school this year out in the basin. They were down in the $180’s or something and so it has significantly changed in a couple of years. That is concerning to us as well. The median home prices increased from $310,000 to $438,000 in the two years in our district. In comparison to the two years ago it’s going to be significantly more expensive to do the same thing that we were proposing.”

If the bond is approved the new high school will hold grades 9-12, the current high school building will become a middle school housing grades 6-8. The current middle school will house grades 3-5 and the elementary school will hold Pre-K through 2nd grade.

The district has other upcoming expenses related to growth. Sorenson says those projects will have to be spaced out in order for capital funds to pay for them.

“We have other needs as it identifies with the capital projects, etc. and working towards addressing the growth in Silver Summit. The hope is that the bond would cover the high school and it would be nice if construction prices decreased to cover some of those projects. The remainder of the capital projects and other growth issues would need to come from capital funds. We do have some resources in our current capital budget but not enough to cover all of those projects. So, we would have to incrementally do it as the funds are available.”

The new high school will be built in a way that makes it possible for the building to add additional wings to the main campus.

“The school will be built for 750 students, so we anticipate that will be adequate for at least 10 years. Then it will be designed to be able to have future growth with wings.”

If the bond passes this November Sorenson says they hope to put out the bids in December or January.

“Our hope is that what we take to the public in November, they know what they are buying. So, they’ve seen schematic drawings of the outside. They know what the rooms will look like and that we’re ready to take that as quickly as possible to RFP for contractors after the bond passes.”

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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