OREM — With the highest increase in enrollment in at least seven years, the Alpine School District Board of Education Tuesday night approved architects to build two new elementary schools and one junior high.

VCBO Architecture will design a junior high school in Saratoga Springs off Redwood Road and 400 North, a short walking distance from a high school under construction.

VCBO will also design an elementary school in the southernmost development in Saratoga Springs.

Sandstrom Architects will design an elementary school in north Lehi, near Thanksgiving Point.

Construction on the three schools will begin this spring. They are scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. The new high school in Saratoga Springs will also open in 2009.

As of Oct. 1 this year, enrollment in the district — which spans all of northern Utah County from Orem to the Point of the Mountain — is 58,740.

That's 2,616 more students than last year and the highest increase in the seven years that the school board has been documenting its enrollment projection history.

"It's because of the building permits and we don't have as many charter schools opening," said Jim Hansen, the district's budget director, who distributed a five-year enrollment projection report Tuesday before the board meeting at Bonneville Elementary School.

Last year, the cities within the Alpine School District boundaries approved a record number of building permits. Hansen warns that building permits have decreased this year, meaning fewer houses are being built and growth will be lower next year.

And only one charter school opened in the past year in the district's boundaries, the Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, with 161 students.

In previous years, the opening of charter schools has impacted the school district. For instance, in 2005, three charter schools opened with 1,160 students who would have likely attended district schools.

Enrollment projections are based on building permits, U.S. Census Bureau data, birth statistics and other data.

As the state's population creeps toward 2.7 million residents, Utah County has had the highest population growth rate, at 5.5 percent, or 26,022 additional residents over the past year.

"Alpine District had the brunt of the growth in Utah County," Alpine Superintendent Vern Henshaw said.

Utah family sizes, averaging 3.56 people, are above the national average of 3.2 people per family, said Hansen. School district officials commented that Utah County families are likely larger than the Utah average, based on anecdotal evidence of families they know.

The new schools will cost tens of millions.

The district is building elementary schools for about $14 million and junior high schools for $31 million. The cost of the new schools could be more or less than current figures, based on bids, said Rob Smith, Alpine's business administrator.

In 2006, the public authorized the district to issue up to $230 million in bonds to pay for construction of new schools. Property taxes will have increased $58 over the next four years.

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