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Canyons School District proposes bond for new schools, upgrades

Oct 02, 2017 02:55PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Union teachers, including eighth-grade English teacher Krista Edwards, use swamp coolers provided by Canyons School District to cool off in their classrooms. (Kelly Tauteoli/Union Middle School)

Union Middle is just a few months from reaching its quinquagenary — or what most folks call its golden birthday — and like many of its neighboring schools, Union is beginning to show its age.

On the Nov. 7 ballot, Canyons Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $283 million, tax-rate-neutral bond to modernize and upgrade schools across Canyons School District.

“Union is on the list of schools to be rebuilt if the bond initiative is approved by voters in November,” Principal Kelly Tauteoli said. “Union was built in 1968 and has not been reinforced to make it safe for children in the event of an earthquake.”

In addition to safety, Tauteoli said students should have ideal setting for learning. Currently, the district is providing assistance in adjusting the temperature in its current buildings.

“The district has been working with us to provide some relief for teachers and students in hot rooms. They have provided some swamp coolers and are looking at other temporary solutions. The new buildings the Canyons (School) District is building are climate controlled with a lot of natural light. These are the optimal conditions for classrooms. We want our students and teachers physically comfortable, so the focus can shift completely to learning,” she said.

Nearby Midvalley Elementary is 60 years old, Hillcrest High is 55 years, Peruvian Park is 52 years and Brighton High is 48. These schools also are on the list to be torn down and rebuilt along with Edgemont Elementary or Bell View Elementary, if the bond passes, said Canyons spokesman Jeff Haney.

“In June 2010, residents approved a $250 million tax-neutral bond that funded 13 major construction and renovation projects and we have kept our promise in improving those schools across Canyons District,” he said. “Now, we are asking taxpayers to approve this bond so we can continue our promise to upgrade more schools across our district.”

The last of the 13 projects, the renovation of Indian Hills Middle, is underway and projected to be completed by the end of this current school year.

Canyons School District, which began with the 2009–10 school year, serves about 33,000 students in Alta, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale and Sandy’s 29 elementaries, eight middle schools and five traditional high schools as well as other locations for specialized programs.

Haney said similar to homeowners borrowing money in the form of a mortgage, the school district borrows to finance the design, construction, expansion and renovation of school facilities. He said the general obligation bond is the form of the lowest possible interest rate and with Canyons’ financial record includes a AAA bond rating, which will guarantee the district the best available interest rate.

“Taxes won’t go up,” he said. 

Along with the rebuilding of schools, which will cost about $257 million, a new elementary school at a cost of $20 million will be built in West Draper. Renovations that will cost $38.5 million will take part in Alta High, including a new auditorium and gymnasium. Additional classroom wings estimated at $4.5 million will be added at Corner Canyon High. Offices will be remodeled at a cost of $2.7 million at Brookwood, Granite, Oakdale, Park Lake, Silver Mesa and Sunrise elementaries. And natural lighting, which will cost $3.1 million, will be added to 18 elementary schools across the district boundaries.

Haney also said the cost of the buildings will be augmented with ongoing capital facility money. The projects were based on a list compiled by architects in 2010, which addressed $650 million for improving facilities, he added.

“These buildings are about kids. They spend a significant part of their days in schools so we want them to be safe, welcoming, well lit, clean, high-tech buildings across all parts of the district so every community in Canyons School District can benefit,” Haney said.

Since Aug. 22 when Canyons Board of Education approved the plan to propose the bond, Canyons officials have met with neighbors, city councils and other leaders to answer questions about the proposal.

At Ridgecrest Elementary’s 50th birthday bash, Superintendent Jim Briscoe passed fliers to attendees explaining the projects involved in the bond proposal.

“I expect that these buildings will last longer than the previous schools, as we have improved architecture and engineering designing and updated maintenance,” he said. “I think we always will see a need for wireless (internet). We’re looking at the best investment for our buildings and our students, who are our future.”

Briscoe also applauded the board of education for making a “tough decision” in proposing a second bond.

Board President Sherril H. Taylor said Canyons’ commitment to its promise speaks for itself.

“While we think our track record speaks for itself, we reiterate our pledge to provide modern and safe schools for our community while also serving as conscientious stewards of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We have built so much momentum since our patrons graciously supported our previous facility-improvement plan, and we have great hopes the community will continue to work with us in our efforts to build up Canyons together.”

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