Alpine School District Board of Education member Stacy Bateman, who represents Lehi, gave a district update to the Lehi City Council during Tuesday’s work session.
Bateman covered various topics, including the recent bond failure, the current boundary adjustment study, the future of a district split and the potential for new school construction.
Last month, Alpine School District voters rejected the board’s $595 million bond by a margin of 53% to 47%. This is the first time in history that voters rejected an ASD bond request.
“Our bond failed on the ballot. We have depended on bonds passing for a long time. That is just what we do. We pass a bond and build schools. We pass a bond and build schools. We did not pass a bond [this time]. There are a couple of reasons for that, but I also think it was a very large number. It was the largest one in history. This isn’t the largest number [amount] we could have gone for. We have perfect credit. I think that number scared a lot of people,” said Bateman.
Without bond funding, the board is now tasked with finding alternative ways to fund new buildings and alternative ways to administer the district. A district-wide boundary study is the first action being taken.
“We’ve opened a district-wide boundary study. I anticipate seeing some changes. I don’t know if we will see them in Lehi schools. We have some schools that are really low in their enrollment and some that are extra nice and full,” said Bateman, who presented the Council with enrollment totals. Both Lehi high schools have 2,000 or more students, with Lehi at 2,000 and Skyridge at 2,403.
Local elementary schools are seeing less of a squeeze, with enrollments ranging from 491 (Lehi) to 1,076 (Dry Creek).
While the High Schools and Elementary Schools are getting by, Lehi’s middle schools are in need of some changes. The district has released two different boundary options to alleviate the population pressure at Viewpoint and Willowcreek and bring more students to Lehi Junior High. The district is currently taking public feedback and working through the options.
As enrollment continues to surge in the northwest part of the district, the south and east sides are experiencing stabilizing or decreasing student populations. The divide between the two areas was one of the reasons the Orem City Council proposed leaving ASD and forming their own district. An overwhelming majority in the general election ultimately defeated the proposal.
While the single-city Orem proposal failed, the opinion among many people in the district is to split.
“A split is inevitable. It’s not an if. It’s a when. We want to make sure we do it correctly,” said Bateman, who was expressing her personal opinion and not that of the ASD board.
“Of all the municipalities, Lehi is in the best position to break off and be our own district. However, in ten or twenty years, I don’t want us to be in a position like Orem, where we have a declining population. When I look at the big picture long term, I think it would be advantageous for us to stay with Saratoga and Eagle Mountain,” continued Bateman, regarding a future district split.
While a split is several years away, the growth is projected to continue, and Bateman believes the need for new schools is still a top priority.
“We have a property off 2100 [North] for a potential secondary school. Junior High, Senior High, maybe a hybrid. There is some opportunity there, and I expect us to have those conversations soon. We also have a property on Center St and Pioneer Crossing for maybe an elementary school,” said Bateman when discussing potential new school sites. Bateman also noted that the board will need to find ways to fund these projects without the bond passing and that property tax increments are currently not an option being entertained, citing the funding mechanism as unsustainable.
Bateman will soon represent only a portion of Lehi schools and patrons (central and east). Joylin Lincoln will join the ASD Board in a newly formed seat after her recent election win. Lincoln will represent West Lehi and parts of Saratoga Springs.