How many schools to build, when to build them, and when to ask voters to approve bonds to build them, were among the questions discussed by Tooele County School Board members during their meeting Tuesday night at the district office.
In previous meetings the school board identified a new high school in the Tooele area, a junior high in Stansbury, and an elementary in Grantsville as the most pressing building needs for the school district.
After adopting the 2020 budget at its Tuesday night meeting, the school board held a work session to discuss bonding for new school buildings.
Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers reviewed school enrollment numbers and school capacity with the school board during the meeting.
The school district rates the student capacity of school buildings with three different ratings: ideal, stretch and maximum.
At the secondary level the ideal capacity is the maximum number of students calculated with each teacher in their own classroom, with access to their classroom during their preparation time. Stretch capacity is calculated with every classroom being used every period of the day with teachers not having access to a classroom during their preparation period. Maximum capacity includes the use of as many portable classrooms as possible at the school.
At the elementary level, ideal capacity allows for one empty classroom in the school for special programs. Stretch capacity includes all rooms used as classrooms during the school day. Maximum capacity includes the use of as many portables as possible.
As of Oct. 1, 2018, Tooele High School had an enrollment of 1,784 students, putting it 233 students over its stretch capacity.
Stansbury High School has an enrollment of 1,850 students, putting it right at its maximum capacity of 1,850 students.
Grantsville High School had 935 students, leaving room for 43 more students before it reaches its ideal capacity or 115 more students for its stretch capacity, according to Rogers.
“We need a new high school soon,” Rogers said.
The district could redo boundaries and send some students from Stansbury High to Grantsville High, but within one or two years the schools would exceed capacity again, according to Rogers.
The estimated cost to build a new high school is $100 million.
In addition to building a new high school, the cafeteria at Stansbury High is too small, even when the school is at its ideal capacity, according to Rogers.
Rogers recommended that the school board include the new high school and $1.5 million to enlarge the Stansbury High school cafeteria in the 2019 bond request.
The expansion of charter schools into the junior high level has slowed enrollment growth at the school district’s junior highs, according to Rogers.
With 10 new classrooms just added to Tooele Junior High School, Tooele Junior High now has an ideal capacity of 1,005 students, with an Oct. 1, 2018, enrollment of 795 students,
Clarke Johnsen Junior High School is just three students short of its 825 ideal capacity as of Oct. 1, 2018.
Grantsville Junior High School had an Oct. 1 enrollment of 458 with an ideal capacity of 675.
“We do not currently need a new junior high school,” Rogers said.
Based on growth estimates a new junior high will be needed in four years, according to Rogers.
Rogers recommended that the new junior high school not be included in this fall’s bond proposal.
At the elementary level, Willow Elementary School is the only elementary that currently exceeds its capacity. Its Oct. 1, 2018, enrollment of 737 exceeds its ideal capacity by 62 students and its stretch capacity by 37 students.
Rogers recommended expanding Willow Elementary by four classrooms and a community room with this fall’s bond proposal at a cost of $3 million. Rogers estimated that would put off the need for a new elementary school by four or five years.
Roger’s recommendations totaled $104.5 million.
However, the district will need to come back to voters in a few years to build the new junior high and elementary school, he said.
The board discussed whether it would be best to split up the bonds for the projects or to ask voters to approve them all at one time.
“If we do this (only bond for the high school now) we need to make sure we say ‘this is the need for today for a new high school, we’re going to be coming back in two or three years and ask for this (a new junior high and elementary school),” said school board president Maresa Manzione.
“I’m not dead set that the time to build all of these is now, but it does not make sense to split it up,” said board member Scott Bryan.
“I’ve heard people say that the school district needs to plan better,” said board vice-president Camille Knudson. “Here we have a chance to do that. We know what we are going to need. Let’s put it out and say this is what we are going to need.”
Board members came to a consensus and asked for their bond advisors from Zions Bank to prepare several bond scenarios for a $190 million bond to include a new high school, a new junior high, a new elementary, expansion of the Stansbury High school lunchroom, and security upgrades for existing schools.
Preliminary bond scenarios show the annual net residential impact of a $190 million bond to range from an additional $133 to $173 for the average $250,000 home. The actual impact depends on how the bond issues are staggered, other debt falling off and timing of interest payments.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for July 9 at 7 p.m. in the board meeting room at the school district office at 92 Lodestone Way in Tooele City.