Midway Boosters hosted a forum regarding the $150 million school bond that would create a new high school in the valley and replace Midway Elementary School on Thursday evening.
The event allowed two Midway parents, one for and one against the bond, to lay out their reasoning for their votes. Member of Citizens Building Education Brad Wagstaff went first. He started by pointing out the reality of rapid growth in the Heber Valley.
“There’s 10,000 homes slated to come into the County in the next 10 years,” Wagstaff explained. “That results in about 5,000 students that are going to come in. I just don’t see another option that we have in front of us that suffices our long-term growth in the Valley, other than building more facilities.”
Wagstaff argues that the design of having several 4A high schools is better for students as opposed to one larger high school.
“That size school really balances the economies of scale with student opportunities the best from what I’ve seen,” Wagstaff continued. “It’s also a model that we’re seeing Cache County and Washington County use to grow as they go through the process of going from a single high school to two to three to potentially four high schools. The question is how do we want to grow? I think the growth is going to happen and how do we want to grow and what size school. So, I’m a proponent and I really like what the school district’s proposed and done.”
Wagstaff says that postponing passing the bond would mean higher costs for taxpayers in the future.
“If we wait five years and say we’re going to build the exact same facility in five years based on just current trends in inflation and if our financing costs returned back to wear normal is the cost of building this goes up 1.7 times,” Wagstaff said. “I just encourage us to do something now and I feel like not voting or choosing to wait is actually choosing for higher taxes down the road.”
Additionally, Wagstaff endorsed the leadership at the school district, and the work they’ve done.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with the district,” Wagstaff explained. “I’ve spent a ton of time with the administrators. I’ve asked a ton of really probing questions saying Hey is this the right decision? I’ve been incredibly impressed with the thoughtfulness that they put into making this decision, selecting the location, the design, the size, land swapping, everything. I just appreciate what they’ve done bringing this to the community.”
Fellow Midway resident Chris Crittenden then presented his reasoning for voting no on the bond. Crittenden says he sees the school bond as a choice between larger schools and smaller schools. He laid out a plan he believed would make a large school an option in the valley. Crittenden started by saying the West Campus building at Wasatch High is not being fully utilized.
“The West campus cafeteria is not being used at lunch nor any other time during the school day,” Crittenden continued. “We should reopen the West campus as a fully self-contained school like it has been for decades. We could open that school as a freshman school. The capacity of West campus is about 1,000 students. If you put our freshman over there that’d be 635 students in the school. The main campus would then be brought back within its normal limits. 1,800 students is the capacity, it’d have just over 1,700. So, simply by reconfiguring we can support about 2,800 students the current enrollment is 2,350.”
Crittenden says that making a Freshman school could then be followed by an expansion of the current high school.
“We have an example of exactly how this can be done,” Crittenden said. “Corner Canyon high school, which is in Draper, is the same design as Wasatch High school. They completed their expansion just last year in 2018. Their expansion costs 9.6 million dollars and supported 800 additional students. So, if we bring those two things together, reconfiguration plus expansion, you now have west campus at 1,000 capacity and main campus the capacity of 2,600 students.”
Crittenden pointed said his plan would allow for a capacity of 3,600 students for a cost of $10 million while the bond plan would have the same capacity for a cost of $120 million.
Crittenden also argued that as enrollment has increased in Wasatch High School, Academic Achievement has grown. He also noted that US Reports highest ranked public high schools in Utah have high enrollment numbers.
“Some of the best schools in our state are really big,” Crittenden explained. “The large school option saves 110 million dollars. Large schools can still have small class sizes, I went to very normal size classes in my high school. Large schools in more economically offer more AP opportunities and CT opportunities and finally large schools are cheaper for students to operate.”
Crittenden also argued that growth in the valley will not have the same long-term impacts that the District’s study, provided by Davis Demographics, has indicated. He noted that despite 277 primary residences being added to the valley last year, elementary school enrollment in the district decreased.
“The total elementary school population decreased by 26,” Crittenden continued. “This was provided by the school district, these numbers. So growth patterns in Wasatch County are changing. We are growing. You can see we grew about by 400 homes. In context they’re saying 10,000 over the next 10 years. That means we’d have to double our growth rate to hit that. Just to be clear, more than double our growth rate. Any case about 400 new homes, a third of those are vacation. That amount of growth only resulted in nine net new students across our elementary and junior highs. To me this says that Wasatch County is becoming unaffordable for young families. Fewer young families today, means fewer high school students in the future.”
Crittenden and Wagstaff went on to answer audience questions about the location and costs of the new high school as well as other questions. You can find a link to a recording of the full Midway Boosters event here.
Read the original story at KPCW.org