Heber Valley elected officials met with the Wasatch County School Board earlier this month. The officials discussed questions about the $150 million bond the school board is proposing in their board meeting Tuesday night.
In the August 8th Interlocal meeting School District Superintendent Paul Sweat and board members presented an informative video before opening up to questions from elected officials of Midway, Heber and Wasatch County. Questions ranged from the location of the school to whether the bond would reach beyond the tax base limits.
Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson asked the district why they aren’t choosing to add on to the existing school building like what has been done in Draper, Utah at Corner Canyon High School. The school has a similar design as the current Wasatch High.
Sweat said they are opting instead to build multiple smaller high schools as opposed to having one of the largest high schools in the state. The model comes in part from schools up in Cache County, Utah. Sweat argued that academic research shows that being able to be involved in multiple extracurriculars increases learning at schools. With two high schools there will be two times the amount of opportunities to be in school plays, on sports teams and participate in other activities.
Wasatch County Council Member Marilyn Crittenden said she understood the sentiment but questioned if residents knew their options.
"I understand the philosophical idea that we want to keep schools small," Crittenden continued. "I understand that possibly you've heard from constituents that they want to keep the schools small. But I'm not sure that they’ve had proposed to them, this is what the reality is at staying small. Is that you're going to pay a lot more. We could do $27 million to upgrade and expand the school as the school was intended to be done, or you can pay $120 (million) is what the high school would be. There’s a big difference there.”
Sweat was also asked if the proposed new high school could share amenities such as football fields. He said that the two high schools would be sharing certain things such as the aquatics center, and programs like the Jr. ROTC program but sharing fields was not likely to happen.
“As this valley continues to explode with growth, every blade of grass that Wasatch County School District owns is either used for school programs, junior programs, little Wasp programs or County rec programs," Sweat explained. "As soon as we build a new patch of grass, our phone’s ringing. We get on there, we’re adding lacrosse to this valley, we’re doing rugby now, we’re doing this, we’re doing that. You know what? It’s awesome. Our kids should be busy. They should be doing stuff after school. It keeps them out of trouble, and it keeps them focused and they’re better students. I will tell you that I think it would be a huge mistake for us not to duplicate our fields, our facilities.”
Johnson also asked if the district had or would look at making sacrifices to reduce the overall cost of the new building. Sweat argued that the have made cuts where they can, and the new schools are built to last.
“We’re not trying to be opulent," Sweat said. "We're not trying to build the Taj Mahal as some have suggested. We are building schools like the current Wasatch High School that was opened in ‘09. See what Wasatch High School looks like today. You know what it looks like? It looks like it's brand new. That's because the students take care of it and it's because it's built with a split face block down the hall that's almost indestructible. It's built with up-to-date commercial tile floors, that have a certain wax on them that when we wax them every summer, they look brand new. Some of the old school building material like you would find it Midway Elementary or that you would find it the old Timpanogos Middle School they don't hold up to the wear and tear over the years. So, we're building schools that will stand the test of time.”