Guest op-ed: Building the future together
In our August school board meeting, the Weber Board of Education determined to place a school bond initiative on the November ballot. This is a decision that our board never takes lightly! Bonding is the funding mechanism that a school district uses to manage enrollment growth and replacement of aging facilities. The Weber School District continues to experience significant growth each year. Anyone who has driven in the western and northern portions of our county clearly understands that there is rapid growth in housing developments.
In the past four years, our school board has made boundary adjustments at the high school, junior high and elementary levels. We want to make sure that we are utilizing our existing facilities as efficiently as we possibly can. We have also moved portable classrooms to schools that are experiencing the greatest enrollment growth. In spite of efforts to adjust boundaries and effectively utilize portable classrooms, many of our schools are over their permanent capacity. Weber, Fremont and Roy high schools are all over permanent capacity. Additionally, Orion, Wahlquist and Rocky Mountain junior high schools are all over permanent capacity. The same is true at the elementary level with schools like Kanesville exceeding capacity.
With the rapid growth in housing starts and the student enrollment growth that accompanies those many new homes, we are in need of a new high school, junior high school and elementary school in the western portion of Weber County. The school district already owns property for all three sites. If the bond is successful this November, all three schools will be scheduled to open in August 2024. That will be exactly 30 years from the time that Fremont High School opened in 1994!
The Weber Board of Education also determined that Roosevelt Elementary School (located in Washington Terrace) is in desperate need of replacement. Roosevelt opened in 1957 and is now 64 years old and is experiencing significant structural challenges. Roosevelt will be rebuilt just to the west of the existing school, which will allow children to continue attending the school while the new, replacement school is being constructed.
The total for these projects will be $279 million and can be done WITHOUT raising the tax rate. In fact, this will be the fifth consecutive bond election that Weber School District has held and not asked taxpayers to raise the debt service tax rate to pay for new construction. That fact is nearly unprecedented and reflects the school board’s sensitivity to the tax burden of the constituents in Weber County.
The Weber School District and Board of Education are committed to meeting the needs of the families that reside in our county while being sensitive to taxpayers. We are so appreciative of the individuals and families who have shown such great support to Weber School District and we will continue to work hard to earn that trust and support.
Dr. Jeff Stephens is superintendent of the Weber School District.