Update on San Juan School District capital project plans
by Tyrel Pemberton,
Operating a School District that geographically spans more than 7,800 square miles and has 12 different schools in seven different communities, has its unique challenges.
One of those challenges is managing capital projects across the district and making necessary structural improvements to school district facilities.
Over the past 15 years, the district has built new elementary schools in the Monument Valley, Monticello, and Bluff Communities while also spending several million dollars to improve the secondary schools that are spread throughout the county. Just a few years ago, a new gymnasium was constructed in the Montezuma Creek community at the elementary school.
Despite these additions and improvements, there is always progress that needs to be made. The school district regularly assesses the needs of all district facilities and just like everything else, has to prioritize certain projects over others; as there are always more needs than resources available.
In the past several board meetings, the San Juan School District Board of Education has wrestled with which projects to prioritize and has recently approved three major projects to be completed. These projects are listed below with a short summary of why these projects were selected.
a new Blanding
Originally built nearly 70 years ago, Blanding Elementary serves between 500-600 students. This project has been identified as a need for many years but has presented its own unique challenges to accomplish.
The current size of the school does not meet the needs of the students and staff as we see changes to programs like counseling, special education services, full day kindergarten options, etc.
The age of the building makes it very energy inefficient and has also presented challenges for modern education practices and technology. There are several safety concerns that a new facility will address and make operations more efficient for students, staff, and parents.
Renovation, addition to Transportation shops and office
SJSD currently operates 89 buses and 96 white fleet for the transportation of students and staff. The current two-bay shop was built nearly 50 years ago and has seen relatively no improvements since then. Transportation staff are repeatedly having to work on a bus outside in the elements because the bays are occupied with other buses/vehicles.
Under the current facilities, bus driver trainings are held in the shop because there is not an adequate space for training inside the office. Because of the limited space, transportation staff is having to deal with workplace inefficiencies every day.
Having a safe and efficient work environment for the transportation staff will help the district be more efficient and effective in performing routine preventative maintenance for our buses and other vehicles that take our students to and from school and all across the state.
Remodel entryways at Montezuma Creek Elementary, ARL Middle, San Juan High, and Monticello High schools
Each of these schools has some uniqueness to what is needed in order to provide a safe school entryway but many of the challenges are shared between the schools. Each of these schools has a front entryway that does not immediately require anyone entering the front doors to check in at the front office.
Despite signs and community education, schools have continued to have concerns with the flow of people entering the buildings. New entryways will help prevent classroom distraction and provide a much safer learning environment for SJSD students.
In the 2022 legislative session HB 475 was passed that allowed small rural school districts an opportunity to apply for capital project funding through money set aside by this bill.
The Utah State Board of Education awarded San Juan School District 3.3 million dollars to help complete this project. With those funds and with school community councils having repeatedly brought this issue up, the district is excited to be able to finally address this issue.
There are still many questions that will need to be answered for each of these projects. The projects are only in the beginning stages and many of those answers are much further down the road. It is always the goal of the School District to use public funds in the most fiscally responsible way.
These projects are just one of many efforts to provide a safe and effective learning environment for students.