Skip to main content

The City Journals

Aging Granite District schools in Taylorsville to be repaired, replaced if voters approve

Feb 09, 2017 11:50AM ● By Bryan Scott

Taylorsville Elementary School (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Last November, voters in the Alpine and Jordan school districts approved a pair of bond measures, totaling more than $630 million. Soon after that, officials with the 68,000-student Granite School District began making the rounds—before city councils and community organizations—hoping to lay the groundwork for a successful bond vote of their own, possibly as soon as this fall.

“Our pursuit of additional construction funding had nothing to do with those (Jordan and Alpine) bonds passing,” said Granite School District Communication Director Ben Horsley. “Our school board has been evaluating options for more than a year. Our schools are aging, and we need to take action.”

On Dec. 14, Horsley and Granite School District Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Don Adams appeared before the Taylorsville City Council to explain the district’s goals. They say nearly half of all Granite Schools are more than 50 years old, and 20 percent of those 91 schools are considered to be in dire need of major repair or full replacement.

“All (school) buildings have unique life cycles,” Adams said. “And within those schools, the air conditioning systems may last about 30 years—carpeting maybe fifteen years, even though the foundations and walls normally last a lot longer.” If funding becomes available, district officials will evaluate which schools need what repairs and how quickly. 

Taylorsville City is home to 13 Granite District schools. Four of them—Arcadia, Taylorsville, Vista and Westbrook elementary schools—are listed among those needing the most improvement.

Independent engineers say school buildings normally enjoy a 60- to 70-year lifespan. For the Granite District to replace schools at that rate, it would have to construct one new elementary school every year, a new junior high every four years and one high school every eight years. District officials estimate the cost to do that would be $36.6 million annually.

“We have shovel-ready projects now, just waiting for the necessary funding,” Horsley said.  

Granite District officials are now distributing an eight-page pamphlet that explains their capital improvement needs and suggests ways to generate revenue. “The Future of Our Schools” brochure also describes how most structures are in particular need of security upgrades, seismic retrofitting and a variety of other renovations.

“In addition to the $36.6 million the district needs for new construction, the board also wants to generate revenue to upgrade existing buildings,” Adams said. “Three options are now being considered, and the one the board favors would require about $10.6 million each year, in addition to the $36.6 million for new structures.”

The Granite School Board is now looking at a single tax increase, a series of bonds or a “hybrid” of both options.

“We are still very early in the process,” Adams added. “The board has not yet suggested any particular bond amount. At this point, it appears it would be in the mid $200 million range. But for now, the district is most interested in getting feedback from the communities.”

One of several public meetings will be held Feb. 2 at Taylorsville High School. Other cities and communities involved in the process are: Holladay, Kearns, Magna, Millcreek, Murray, South Salt Lake and West Valley City.

“If residents express support for the board’s plan, a bond measure could be on the ballot this November,” Horsley said.

At least one Taylorsville City Councilman has already weighed in. As Granite officials were concluding their presentation, Council Vice-Chairman Brad Christopherson said, “I want to go on record now, saying I favor the improvements. I attended some of these schools myself, and when I go back to visit, it doesn’t look like much has changed. My kids are in Granite School District facilities now, and I want them—and all of our community’s kids—to have the best opportunities possible to succeed.”