Wasatch County School District responds to concerns about facilities study
At a meeting with local governments in Wasatch County, school district officials gave an update on its master plan efforts, and defended critiques about its process.
After a six-month process and delayed release date, findings of the Wasatch County School District’s study to plan for population growth will be released in a May 18 school board meeting. More than a month behind the original schedule, local government officials stressed the importance of that release in order to ramp up public outreach efforts.
A major looming question related to the study is whether the district should again put a bond for a new high school on the ballot. The election’s in November, but the deadline for that decision is in August.
“This is like a roadmap to dealing with the growth in the valley,” said Kim Dickerson, school board member, at the meeting. “What are we going to do with some of the buildings that are getting old? You know, what, what facilities will we need in the future? What can we do in the Jordanelle area that are growing so much?”
Administrator of Career and Technical Education Jason Watt said the goal of the study isn’t to “tie the board to one specific solution” for decisions. Instead, he said it’s to provide guidance and “benchmark data points.”
District officials said the consultant carrying out the study, GSBS Architects, has so far evaluated old school buildings and gathered community feedback, and it’s still compiling some of that data.
Midway Councilmember Kevin Payne said he had concerns as a member of the citizen steering board.
“The concern I felt from the very first committee meetings is that it seemed that the district had pretty much already decided, at least for the short-term solution, for a second high school in the North Fields,” he said.
He said the study has fallen short in seeking feedback from voters about why they voted no in 2019.
“I felt that 80 to 90% of the time was educating those of us within the committee, and 10 to 20% of the time was really listening and gaining feedback,” he continued. “When questions were asked, when the superintendent would bring up points or presentations made, they seemed to all focus on an answer to and defend the concept of 'small school's better,' which basically equals a new high school.”
In response, Dickerson said the study has gone to great lengths to collect feedback from many perspectives and is focused on producing the best overall solutions.
“I assure you we did not go into this process narrow minded with the thought of building a high school or putting a bond putting a high school bond on the ballot in November,” she said. “We did not hire GSBS with any intention other than figuring out what to do with the growth, just having somebody help us decide what to do. We did not go into this with that intention. So I apologize if that was the perception, but that was not the intention.”
According to school district information officer Kirsta Albert, the steering committee will see the plan shortly before the public sees it at the May 18th meeting.
The next interlocal meeting between governments in the county will take place July 27.