At the August 12 meeting of the school board, a plan to address the future capital needs was discussed. The district has identified projects at nine of the 12 schools. The total estimated cost of these additional projects exceeds $41 million.
“The main decision going forward hinges on whether we do Blanding Elementary School sooner or later,” said district business administrator Clayton Holt. The estimated $17 million price tag on a new elementary school in Blanding means it would be the only project that could be completed over several years.
With more than 500 students, Blanding Elementary School is the largest school in the district. The estimated cost of projects yet to be completed is listed on this page.
While not finalizing the timing of the projects, the board is considering a proposal that would put the new school in Blanding at the end of the process.
This proposal would start with extensive renovations at Albert R Lyman Middle School in Blanding (estimated $7 million) and include a new gymnasium at Montezuma Creek Elementary School ($2 mil.) and upgrade projects at Monument Valley ($1 mil.) and Whitehorse ($1 mil.) high schools in the next three years (2015-18).
Over the following two years (2019-20), upgrading projects would be completed at San Juan ($3 mil.) and Monticello ($1.5 mil.) high schools, and a new building would be constructed to house La Sal Elementary School ($1 mil.).
The remaining projects include new elementary schools in Bluff ($8 mil.) and Blanding ($17 mil.).
The capital project plan was implemented after officials realized that the majority of the schools in the sprawling district were built at about the same time, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The concern was that all of the aging schools would need replacement at the same time.
As result, the district went on an aggressive capital projects plan that has resulted in two new schools and significant remodeling to the high schools in the district.
New elementary schools which have been constructed include Tse’bii’nidzisgai Elementary School in Monument Valley and Monticello Elementary School.
The new building housing Monticello Elementary School will be dedicated in a community celebration on Tuesday, September 9, beginning at 5 p.m.
The voted leeway program was approved in 2006, with nearly 70 percent voter approval. At the time, the district paid several million dollars in outstanding bond obligations and used the leeway to fund the capital projects.
Property taxes raised from the leeway are matched by state funds. This has helped the district complete the $37 million in projects on a cash basis.
The district auditor has stated that San Juan is likely the only school district in the state with no long-term debt obligations.
At the August 12 board meeting, the board authorized the district to negotiate for the purchase of property for a new school in Bluff and secure land for the gymnasium in Montezuma Creek.
For the past several years, the future of the school in Bluff has been in question as the community grappled with a possible waste management system. The school, built in 1954, has no space for a new septic field if it is required.
The district is looking at property on the west side of Bluff that could be the site of a new school. The estimated cost of a new school in Bluff is approximately $8 million.
Another $6.5 million in projects at area high schools would make the facilities secure for several decades, according to Holt.
A new gymnasium adjacent to Montezuma Creek Elementary School is also on the wish list for projects. “I think we need to build a gym in Montezuma Creek which should be similar to gymnasiums in the other communities in the district,” said Holt.
In other matters at the August 12 school board meeting, the board heard a report from technology director Josh Decker about the long-term strategy for a one-to-one ratio of students to computers.
The one-to-one ratio will be a reality this year in approximately a dozen classrooms across the district, in addition to all of the students at Navajo Mountain High School. Decker explains that the lessons learned in the dozen classrooms will help the district as it expands the one-to-one program.
The school board also approved a resolution opposing a unilateral declaration of the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument by Pres. Obama. In recent weeks, a number of organizations, including 14 U.S. senators, have called upon Obama to make the declaration using the Antiquities Act.
Obama threatened to use executive power for such matters during his State of the Union address in 2014 earlier in the year.