A general obligation bond proposed by the Emery County Board of Education would finance the building of two new schools as well as classroom additions. The school improvement general obligation bond would be in the amount of $75,000,000, which would fund a new high school to replace Emery High as well as a new elementary school to replace Ferron Elementary. If approved by the majority of voters, the funds would also include a classroom addition at Book Cliff Elementary.
“Due to the advancing age of our buildings, the cost to maintain and upgrade our buildings is more than our current capital outlay revenue,” the Emery County School District shared. “Emery High and Ferron Elementary have been prioritized as our schools with the most urgent need for replacement.”
Currently, Emery High serves 9-12 grade students from Emery, Ferron, Clawson, Orangeville, Castle Dale, Lawrence, Huntington, Cleveland and Elmo while Ferron Elementary serves K-5 students from Ferron, Clawson and Emery. At Book Cliff Elementary, students K-6 from Green River are served.
While Emery High has seen fluctuating numbers throughout the years, the current student count vastly outweighs the school’s intended capacity. “The original portion of Emery High was built in 1961 with additions in 1970, 1982 and 1989,” the school district shared. “Originally designed for 300 students, it currently serves over 600 students. Mobile classrooms have been added to meet the expanded needs.”
It was also emphasized that the CTE (Career and Technical Education) classrooms were not designed to serve the current class sizes and the building is not meeting the school’s current technology needs. In addition, Emery High’s “heating, cooling and sewer systems are antiquated, inefficient, expensive and difficult to maintain.”
However, the school district and board noted that Emery High is functional and has progressed through these challenges. “The school and grounds are well maintained and taken care of by custodians and maintenance workers. Emery High has undergone capital improvements annually that have contributed to the effectiveness of academic and non-academic programs. It certainly has remained, on the surface, the social and cultural icon of Emery County. What lies beyond the surface, however, is contributing to the problems that need attention, including plumbing, electrical, climate control and school safety.”
While Ferron Elementary opened in 1964, the school utilizes part of the original South Emery High building constructed in 1918. The school underwent remodels in 1966 and 1981, but multiple issues have put Ferron Elementary on the district’s priority list.
“HVAC systems are obsolete and require constant maintenance,” the district shared regarding Ferron Elementary. “The electrical system is inefficient and inadequate for current technology needs. Water and sewer systems are no longer accessible, requiring rerouting and difficult maintenance.”
Roofing was also noted as an ongoing problem at the school as well as asbestos, safety and the fire alarm system. “In the opinion of the maintenance department, funding a new building is a needed expense and would be an effective use of district resources,” the district shared.
Finally, while Book Cliff Elementary does not require a completely new construction, the district and board has determined that a classroom addition would best serve the school and its students. “Book Cliff Elementary has utilized a portable classroom unit for many years,” the district noted. “This unit is nearing the end of its useful life. A classroom addition will allow for all programs to be held within the main building.”
The bond is scheduled to appear on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election. If approved by voters, the district plans to begin construction on the new Emery High School simultaneously with Ferron Elementary in 2021. The Book Cliff Elementary addition would follow. According to the district, “this will allow current school maintenance funds to support the other schools in our district.”
While COVID-19 and its impacts will weigh heavy on the minds of voters this election season, the Emery County School District shared that the current pandemic has made the possibility of a bond much more feasible.
“This is the ideal time to issue new bonds because interest rates are still at low levels, and the bonds would be issued under the State School Bond Guarantee Program, giving the district the lowest possible interest rates,” the district shared. “If the economy in our county slows or declines, our taxing ability will also diminish, eliminating this opportunity for our current students and those that we will serve for 50+ more years.”
More information on the proposed projects is available on the district’s website at www.emeryschools.org.