When voters go to the polls this November, they will find on the ballot a proposal from Alpine School District for a $386 million bond. Among the projects planned for the bond is the continued reconstruction of Lehi High School. While some Lehi residents are happy to see this, others continue to be frustrated by what they view as a less-than-ideal situation, proposing that the current facilities for LHS would be better utilized as a junior high.
This discussion is not a new one. When the plan to start rebuilding and improving the high school first came up in 2001, there was opposition to it, as residents saw a need for a second high school rather than renovations. At the time, many expressed a desire to sell or lease the land or use the building as a junior high.
Support for building a new high school grew and in 2008, a community input meeting held by the District at Willowcreek Middle School drew around 1,000 people who wanted a new high school. Plans for Skyridge High School began to take shape, and it will open for classes next month.
But resident desires to see LHS converted into a junior high seem to be meeting a dead end. In another attempt to mitigate the parking and limited space concerns at the high school, city officials met with District officials this past spring to once again discuss turning it into a junior high. The District told city officials this plan was not feasible, although city officials remain unclear as to exactly why.
At $50 million, LHS is the biggest reconstruction project on the bond, said school board member Scott Carlson, who represents Lehi. He agrees that Lehi will need a new junior high, but sees growth demographics pointing to a better location in the northwest area of the city. While he is aware that there are residents who are concerned about keeping a LHS where it is, he said most of the residents he has talked to are eager to get the rebuild finished.
LHS sits on the smallest area of any high school in the Alpine School District, taking up only 30 acres. About eight years ago, the school district looked at selling the property, inviting commercial developers and others to take a look at it. But the property market was struggling at the time and “the offers couldn’t cut it financially,” Carlson said.
So the district moved forward with reconstruction plans for LHS, which was built the same year and under the same design as American Fork High School and Pleasant Grove High School. Those two buildings have also been undergoing needed updates.
Kimberly Bird, Assistant to the ASD Superintendent, said she had not heard about the proposal to turn LHS into a junior high. She explained that it costs $68-$74 million to build a new high school, which is more than it costs to reconstruct it. The District has purchased property to the north of the school as part of a plan to create a new entrance to the parking lot. The belief is that the reduced enrollment created by the opening of Skyridge High School will alleviate the bulk of the parking problems that now exist.
Three phases of the LHS construction have already taken place. The first was adding the classroom wing on the northwest side of the building, the second was the classroom tower on the southwest side of the building, and the third was retrofitting the athletic facilities. The current proposed bond would finance the final phase of the rebuild. Bird said that when it’s all completed, “it’s going to be an amazing facility.”
Several community input meetings were held from late April through mid-May. The school district has been considering the feedback, and the board is scheduled to vote on the final bond resolution August 16. Further information about the bond can be viewed at http://www.alpineschools.org/bond2016, and contact information for board members can be found at http://www.board.alpineschools.org.