With ballots being sent out in mid-October, Wasatch County residents are continuing to gather information on Wasatch School Districts proposed $150 million bond election.
The proposed bond would be used to replace the current Midway Elementary School and build an additional high school in the valley. Wasatch County Taxpayers Association has requested information from the district related to the bond be made public. One GRAMA request from the organization that has been denied has to do with a survey conducted to gather community input for the bond. KPCW asked District Spokesperson John Moss why the results have not been finalized even while the board has cited the survey as proof that the community generally supports the bond effort.
“The company that we are working with is still working to prepare the final information,” Moss explained. “But, as we’ve gone through this process, we’ve had communications with them. They’ve given us some preliminary information, but nothing that’s in the final form yet.”
Another GRAMA request from the Wasatch County Taxpayers Association asks for the appraisal of the land purchased for the high school to be publicly released. The district has stated the reason for denial of the request is because the purchase of the property has not yet been finalized. The taxpayer’s association believes that the district overpaid for the property. One condition that could greatly impact the worth of the property is whether it is annexed into the city. That process is currently underway although the annexation petitioner has halted the process to wait for the results of the bond.
The districts website lists the cost of the land at $6.2 million dollars. Although the property hasn’t closed, Moss says that they are paying what the property is worth.
“That property actually was purchased at the appraised price,” Moss continued. “The price we paid was what the appraisal of the property said it was worth. I’m not a person who does a lot of real estate, so I don’t know this for sure, but I’m sure that the appraisers are aware of the situation. The placement of land, and the growth of the city and things of that sort when they do their appraisal. I don’t understand that process, but I do know that we paid the appraised price.”
The School District has prepared answers to 19 questions on their website about the bond. The frequently asked questions include sections on finance, the Midway Elementary School, the proposed new high school and about the district in general. Answers are also provided in Spanish. One argument the district has made for a second high school is the benefits of increased opportunities for students.
“It also gives them more academic and leadership opportunities in the school,” Moss said. “The more people that can run for the student council for example. There will be more Sterling Scholars. There will be more kids that get to be involved in leadership opportunities, and we think that’s a big part of education. So, I don’t want people to misunderstand and think we’re doing this for an athletic purpose because that’s not driving this at all. Student involvement is driving this. We think that the more students are involved, the better they will do in their classroom. That’s a proven fact that the students involved in extracurricular activities achieve more academically, than the students who are not involved.”
Dividing the student population would also divide minority populations, including Latinx and LGBT populations into two different high schools. Moss says the district will continue to support those students.
“They would be treated just as respectfully as they are now,” Moss explained. “I think that’s something that we’ve worked really hard to do with our kids. We allow them to create clubs of all sorts of kinds that meet their personal needs. That will happen whether we have one school or two or five. We’ll always be there to help the students have good experiences.”
Moss says ultimately the largest obstacle to overcome is trust in the school district.
“If the people don’t have trust in the school district, it’s hard to vote yes for something like this,” Moss continued. “There are a couple of issues that have been raised from the past years that have kind of confused the issue because they’re only getting part of the story. They don’t understand the whole picture and so we’re trying to put that information out to help people understand what it is that the school district has done in the past. The decisions they’ve made, and that they are trustworthy. That they do handle their money well and that they take their fiduciary responsibilities with tax money very seriously. I think that’s an important message for us to get out to the people is that they’re working hard to do everything they can to take care of the students in the valley and still maintain the integrity of the tax dollars.”
Wasatch County residents will have the opportunity to vote on the $150 million bond this November.
Read the originals story at KPCW.org