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Heber City land annexation could lead to county’s second high school

Wasatch High School, located in southern Heber City, is currently the only public high school in the Wasatch County School District. Heber City and the district are working to provide a new site where a second could be built.

With an annexation of county land into Heber City underway, the Wasatch County School District is a step closer to building a new high school.

The Heber City recorder certified a petition for the Wasatch School Site annexation Tuesday. The land is north of Southfield Park along Midway Lane west of town, but the annexation process includes many steps before final approval.

The 45 acres to be annexed are currently owned by the school district and private citizens.

“Right now, we have a high school that is built for a max of 1,800, and I think our final number is between 2,500 and 2,600,” said Marianne Allen, school board member. "We’re doing everything we can, but is there a definite need? Yes. It’s just whether we’re going to be one of the bigger 6A schools in the state, or if we’re going to see what other options our public, our community would like us to look at. But from our standpoint, we would think that a second high school is the next step. It’s a safety issue, it’s a crowding issue.”

New Wasatch County School District High School concept Heber City WCSD
Heber City
A concept for the potential new high school in Heber City shows a school building similar in design to that of Wasatch High School and athletic facilities near the intersection of 600 West (top) and 100 South (right.).

At an October 5 city council meeting, city staff presented an unofficial design for a new high school. It shows the main building could face Midway and be surrounded by five parking lots. Sports facilities for baseball, softball, tennis, football, soccer and track & field would be north of the school building.

City Councilwoman Rachel Kahler says she voted for the annexation because she supports a second high school in town.

Councilwoman Heidi Franco was the lone dissenting vote.

“The school district wants to annex the area and, probably, eventually build a high school there, even without the voters’ approval,” Franco said. “I feel like they should wait to annex until the voters approve it. It wouldn’t take the council long, and it would be done with the voters’ approval.”

The second reason she voted against the annexation, she added, is that if the city annexes the land, the area’s zoning will change. But if voters don’t approve a new school, other types of buildings in raised density could eventually be built anyway.

The land is at the southern tip of the North Fields, which includes wetlands. According to Kahler, the city and the Civil Corps of Engineers determined that less than 2% of the area to be annexed includes wetlands.

As the annexation proceeds, the public will be able to comment in public hearings. No hearings have been scheduled yet. Next steps also involve the Heber City Planning Commission and, potentially, affected property owners.

The school district just kicked off its Future Schools Project, a 10-to-20-year master planning effort, which will involve public surveys and consultants.

Allen said, “It’s going to be interesting to see what we get out of this process. So, there are always two sides to the story. Right now, the district sees it as one side; we want to know what the community sees as the other. We’re leaning toward building another school. However, we’re not going to bond if the public is like, ‘Nope.’ If we already get the answer of ‘No,’ there’s no reason to bond.”

Allen encouraged the public to contact the school board with comments about a new high school, and to talk to the city about the land annexation itself. She said to email the school board or district officials such as Superintendent Paul Sweat or spokesperson Kirsta Albert.

The school board email is schoolboard@wasatch.edu.

City Planner Tony Kohler says the annexation process is likely to take less than a year without unforeseen interruptions.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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