FARMINGTON — The first of several projects funded by a $298 million bond in the Davis School District got underway Tuesday as administrators broke ground for a new high school.
It will be the first high school in Farmington, with varied-size classrooms and enough Wi-Fi to handle up to five devices per student. But educators are looking forward to the impact it will have in other places, such as Viewmont, Layton and Davis high schools, where a growing student population is illustrated by a growing number of portable classrooms outside.
Those schools are each between 450 and 750 students over capacity.
"It will be nice to bring those numbers down," said Viewmont Principal Dan Linford. "We try to artificially create smaller learning communities within schools."
School leaders have been able to take on the growth without increasing the ratio of students to teachers, but other problems are sometimes unavoidable: neighborhoods clogged by student parking, jammed hallways between classes and concerns of campus safety.
At full capacity, the new high school at 400 West and Glovers Lane will hold 2,000 students in 10th through 12th grades. In its first year in August 2018, the school may open initially for 10th- and 11th-graders and incorporate 12th-graders the following year, as is customary for other new schools, according to Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams.
It's a critical need because the growth is expected to continue. The district has grown by 3,800 students since 2010, and almost 49,000 of the district's 70,000 students haven't entered high school yet, according to the Utah State Office of Education.
The population of Davis County during that time has increased by almost 30,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Meanwhile, existing facilities are ill-equipped to handle the growth. Viewmont High, for example, is more than 50 years old.
"It's going to definitely alleviate the pressure of the students who come into those buildings. It just becomes challenging to have a large student body in a building that was not built for that capacity," Williams said. "We want to make sure that students have the ability to have a great education and learn in a facility that has room for them."
In an effort to maximize space, the new high school has been designed to operate more like a college campus. Classrooms will come in various sizes, allowing the school to configure each room for its most appropriate use. Teachers will have their own office, and each classroom will be shared between several instructors, depending on layout needs.
District officials estimate the new model will increase space efficiency by 90 percent compared with other schools.
"The challenge always is how can we best utilize space, because any empty space is just wasted space," Williams said.
School boundaries haven't been redrawn yet, and parents will have opportunities to weigh in on the changes in the coming year, he said.
The $76 million project is one of several still to come for the district thanks to the bond, which was approved by voters in November. Another $170 million will be used to build a new junior high school in Layton, and one or two new elementary schools in northern Davis County.
The remaining $52 million is set aside for renovations or additions at Viewmont, Woods Cross and Mountain high schools; Sunset and Mueller Park junior high schools; and West Bountiful Elementary. Many of those renovations are scheduled to start shortly after school ends for the district next week.
At Viewmont, it will mean a new location for its media room and theater, updated classrooms, removing asbestos, a new building for trades programs, and "probably the most important thing," Linford said: air conditioning.
"We like to get a lot of use out of our buildings," he said.