Heber City's Population Growth Expected To Increase School Enrollment
Heber City is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, which can affect things like housing and zoning laws. But it’s also leading to higher population densities in schools.
Over the next ten years, Heber’s K through 12 student population could grow by more than 30%, according to Wasatch County Superintendent Paul Sweat.
He said he doubts there are any other counties in the nation increasing at the same rate.
"It's an alarming rate to a school district because it's our job to provide space," Sweat told the Heber City Council during their meeting Tuesday.
"It's our job to keep up. It's our job to provide a quality education to all these students."
The district uses predictions based on both the birth rate and the number of people moving into the area. As of 2020, student enrollment was just over 7,000, and the county predicts that number to increase to just under 9,000 by 2030.
Recently, the school district built a new elementary school - Daniels Canyon. They also built a second middle school - Timpanogos - in the county.
Next they want to explore building another high school, because it could see 600 more students in the next five years.
"Wasatch High was a school of about 400 kids for a long time," he said. "The old school on 6 South had right around 35-36 teaching spaces, that's how many classrooms there were or teaching spaces when we count everything. We left that building in 2009. We've gone from 36-37 teaching spaces - I'm just using an approximate number - to now we’re teaching in well over 100 spaces."
Sweat said the school district is having problems filling all of their current open teaching positions.
"We are running into this situation now where we offer a job," he said. "This has happened several times in the last two or three years and the teacher accepts the job. They call the principal back a week later and say, 'hey, I've been driving around here trying to find a home. I'm going to have to rescind my acceptance of your offer. I can't live here and I don't want to teach in a place that I can't live.'”
Of the 450 positions in the county, the school district has to hire about 60 new teachers a year. Sweat says the school district will need to start working with the county and Heber City to help build affordable housing for teachers to live in.
Heber City Councilmember Ryan Stack told KPCW the city is open to working with the school district to accommodate for the population boom.
"There's some realities we're facing with what's happening with growth in the valley with the pressures that's placing our schools," Stack said. "And so Wasatch County - the school board approached us about having those conversations and just keeping an open and ongoing dialogue with the city and trying to come up with ways that the city can help them as they start visioning. And that includes things like in potential annexation areas looking to negotiate tracts of land that could be left open for school sites."
Sweat said the school district doesn’t have any plans to bond for schools in the next November election. He says they hope to coordinate with Heber City and Wasatch County Councils so there aren’t multiple bonds in the same year.