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Construction ban lifted for Draper charter school

Published April 4, 2017 9:42 pm

Education • State Board of Education grants one-month permit after fire marshal's inspection.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

American Preparatory Academy in Draper was given the green light Tuesday to resume construction of its new high school campus.

The Utah Board of Education issued a stop-work order last week until the state fire marshal could approve an emergency access route the charter school created by purchasing a nearby residential property and converting its driveway into a construction entrance.

Without that driveway, American Preparatory Academy's property is landlocked, forcing it to rely on an easement that connects the school's parking lot to Lone Peak Parkway. Those constraints on the charter school parcel are the source of an ongoing dispute with APA's neighbor, an industrial park, over a narrow strip of private land that separates the school from a nearby roadway.

The school construction site, located adjacent to American Preparatory Academy's existing elementary and middle school, was inspected by the fire marshal on Friday. Assistant state superintendent Natalie Grange said Tuesday the academy was granted a full construction permit expiring a month from now, on May 5.

"The month is to evaluate their progress on the temporary emergency access," she said.

American Preparatory Academy currently operates six charter schools in Utah, and plans to open its new high school campus in Draper this fall.

In an email, the school's governing board chairman, Brad Findlay, expressed appreciation to the Utah Board of Education for allowing construction to move forward — though he noted the academy had received a verbal go-ahead and was awaiting written notification.

The existing charter school and the planned expansion have been a point of frustration for some Draper residents. Neighbors say the limited access generates significant traffic congestion on Lone Peak Parkway as students are dropped off and picked up. And some parents reportedly bypass that traffic by driving through the nearby neighborhood and encouraging their children to reach the school by walking through private property.

School representatives argue those concerns would be addressed by getting access to the roadway on its south side, while tenants of the industrial park have countered it would be unsafe to mingle school and industrial traffic.

American Preparatory Academy administrators distributed a flyer to residents in August, which said completion of the new high school campus would add 300 students to the area but also would mitigate congestion through staggered schedules and increased parking.

"Right now we have 1100+ students in grades K-12 stuffed into our one building, with one start and one stop time, which puts WAY TOO MANY cars on Lone Peak during drop-off and pick-up times," the flyer states. "Having 2 schools will SPREAD OUT the cars so there will be FAR FEWER cars on Lone Peak at any given time."

School representatives have asked the State Charter School Board to exercise eminent domain and condemn the land that separates American Preparatory Academy from the road on its south side. But the board declined, voting to delay consideration of eminent domain until a lawsuit between the charter school and industrial park could be resolved.

Third District Judge Su Chon ruled last week that APA's property falls short of the road. And charter school board executive director Jennifer Lambert confirmed Tuesday that American Preparatory Academy had renewed its request for eminent domain in light of Chon's decision.

Lambert said the charter school board has not yet determined whether, or when, to consider APA's new request. "It is currently not on April's agenda," he said.

The state charter school board has never exercised eminent domain and there is disagreement within Utah's education and political community on whether the board, an unelected panel subsidiary to the Utah Board of Education, possesses the legal right to claim private property for public use.


Twitter: @bjaminwood






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