Burgeoning Wasatch School District may realign schools

Saving money » Officials say shifting grades would save millions.
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Reeling from enrollment growth, the Wasatch School District is looking to realign its classes and schools in an effort to keep from finding money for more new buildings.

In 2006, Wasatch County voters approved a $59.5 million bond for a new high school. District officials are now reluctant to go back to taxpayers to fund new elementary and junior high schools.

The realignment strategy could save tens of millions in construction costs, said Superintendent Terry Shoemaker.

"We know that we need to do something to provide facilities for our students."

The move would redefine elementary school as kindergarten to fourth grade; fifth and sixth grades would be intermediate school; junior high would be comprised of seventh and eighth grades; the high school would house grades nine through 12.

Without the shift, the district could be faced with building a new elementary -- estimated at $18 million -- and replacing the junior high for $31 million to $36 million.

By contrast, the realignment could be accomplished for about $1 million, Shoemaker said. The proposal would delay by seven to 12 years construction of new buildings.

The school board will determine the specifics of the proposed realignment at its Thursday meeting, according to board member Alan Bluth.

The plan would take effect fall 2009.

Although the new high school is scheduled to open fall 2009, school officials don't want to use the existing Wasatch High as part of the realignment. They plan to sell it.

That strikes resident Tracy Taylor as shortsighted because Wasatch High is adjacent to the junior high and, she said, could go a long way toward solving overcrowding problems.

"We have to live within our means. Let's hold on to the high school for five years and then reassess."

But Bluth said sinking money into Wasatch High to upgrade for the realignment would be wasteful in the long term.

Further, he said, the strategy can be accomplished without the high school.

"This plan is a great financial savings for our taxpayers and I think the value outweighs the challenges."


Wasatch enrollment

School-district enrollment has jumped from 3,492 in 1997 to 4,588 in 2007.