Wasatch School District is considering a proposal to bond for two new schools – and based on the going rate for new schools – this could cost taxpayers upwards of $150 million.
In a publicly noticed meeting, the Wasatch School board met at Wasatch High School on Wednesday. Those in the audience included staff from the district, including over 100 teachers and administrators.
During the meeting, the district shared results from a demographics study that forecast incredible growth in the district. The study concluded that already planned housing projects will result in a 22% increase in student population over the next seven years.
The district shared that Wasatch High School opened in 2009 with 1,300 students, today it has 2,200 students. Within two years Wasatch High could become a 6A sized school and 2025 projections suggest student population at Wasatch High could reach over 2,800 students.
The proposed new high school would be built on land the district recently placed under contract, located west of Heber and North of Midway Lane.
The district says the boundaries of the two schools would approximately follow the middle school configurations and result in two 4A sized high schools.
The school district is also considering a proposal to bond for a new elementary school in Midway to replace the current school. The Midway school would be located south of the current elementary school - on land the district went under contract for recently.
The district noted that many factors play into the costs of building a new school. Looking at similarly sized schools built in Utah, and at previous costs paid for new elementary schools, the district gave a preliminary estimate of $150 million for the new high school and elementary school.
If approved, the approximate annual cost for the bond would be $60 for every $100,000 of property value for primary homeowners – about double that for businesses and second homeowners. Final bond numbers won’t be available until later this summer.
The district noted that as growth continues annual dues collected for the bond will drop in price for individual homeowners. For example, the cost paid by individuals for the approximately $60 million 20-year bond passed in 2007 has dropped by more than 27% and the 2016 20-year bond for approximately $60 million has likewise dropped by over 40%.
The meeting allowed school district staff to provide feedback, criticism, suggestions and support of the proposed schools to the school board.
Superintendent Paul Sweat acknowledged the pain and challenges that would come from dividing the high school.
“When people ask me when I started in Wasatch, I started in Wasatch in kindergarten," Sweat said. "I love Wasatch High School. My closet, I don’t really have any other shirts unless they say Wasatch on them. I am the last person on the planet that wants to divide this high school. I love this high school with all my heart. But folks it's inevitable. We didn't create it. We didn’t control it—we didn't have anything—we wish we did have more control over managing growth in Wasatch County, but we don't. We have to react and if we don't do something soon in about three years from now, we're going to be in a real mess.”
The district will seek public input at an open house currently scheduled for Wednesday May 29th more details to come. It was emphasized that the board is considering a proposal and an official proposal would not happen until mid-August after hearing public input.