On Monday, August 21, nearly 80,000 students will enter the doors of over 90 schools in Alpine School District (ASD). The dilemma of burgeoning growth in the north end of the district and the fairly stable growth in the south presents complex problems for district administrators.
Within the last few months Lehi City has approved over 5000 new housing units in Lehi City boundaries. The anticipation of this growth and equally large developments in Saratoga Springs has led ASD to present citizens with a bond proposal to build schools and buy land for the influx of students in the projected growing areas of Lehi, Saratoga Springs, and Eagle Mountain. The $387,000,000 bond would be paid by the property taxes levied by the county on all residents in the district. The bond will appear on the ballot in the November election. The district assures residents that on a house appraised for around $275,000 there will be no tax increase.
According to Superintendent Sam Jarman, the monies will be dispersed in four phases:
- New elementary school north of Timpanogos Highway. New high school in Eagle Mountain
- Complete the rebuild of Lehi High School. New middle school in either Saratoga Springs or Lehi
- Property purchases in high growth areas
- Second Middle school in either Saratoga Springs or Lehi
In recent bond presentations to the patrons of ASD, details of the bond were presented by board and staff members. Unfortunately, attendance was sparse in most of the meetings in the district. There has been great effort expended by the district to inform all patrons of the necessity of the bond passage.
The prospect of not passing the bond is very real, according to Jarman and public relations personnel Kimberly Bird and David Stephenson. Regarding the failure of the Jordan School District bond passage in 2013, JSD public relations director Steven Dunham lamented, “We had to change 13 boundaries that affected 14 schools and impacted 12,000 children.” He also said they instituted a “pay as you go” philosophy which helped build 4 schools, but it also resulted in deep cuts in many of the district’s departments. “It was devastating to try and adjust to the overcrowding in many of the schools,” concluded Dunham.
Jarman is hoping the results of a recent survey of 6,000 ASD patrons, indicating 89% approve of the way ASD operates their schools, will provide impetus in passing the bond. ASD has consistently measured top in the state in graduation rate, ACT scores, Sage tests and AP exams, with high parent satisfaction in all areas of the district. Given those facts, a positive result is anticipated in November when people go to the polls.
When Jarman was asked about the number one problem faced by the district, he said emphatically, “The cost of buying land! You can’t buy from farmers anymore and buying from developers is very expensive.” Jarman also believes that property for schools should be included in the requirements of a development, just as much as parks or open space. He also feels our legislators need to be amenable to setting aside land for schools or charging educational impact fees as a requirement for development. This becomes a conflict of interest issue because many legislators are land developers or are in the real estate business.
In May of last year, Governor Gary Herbert was asked to comment on the Utah Foundation Report, Reaching Toward 2050 Education in the Midst of Population Growth. He said, “It is clear that Utah is not dedicating the same proportion of resources to public education as it did in the 90’s.” Citizens will have an opportunity to reverse this trend in November as they go to the polls to vote on the school bond. Growth will continue for many years to come, and with that growth, citizens, educational and civic leaders need to plan for future educational needs.