Provo High School’s property on University Avenue is up for grabs.
The Provo City School District is currently accepting bids for the property as plans are made for a new campus on the already-owned property in West Provo on Lake Shore Drive.
“We recognize the value of this piece of property and that it is an asset to the district and to the citizens,” Provo City School District President, Julie Rash said, “If it takes us a little bit of time to negotiate the best possible terms, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Rash said that they are “working feverishly to do the best thing for the school district,” with an understanding that Provo High “outlived its life span.” As a result, the school district decided to split the decisions of moving and selling in two, so as to move forward with construction of the new school without property negotiations impeding that process.
Some concerns have been expressed from the public regarding the loss of proximity to BYU campus. However, Principal of Provo High School, Karen Brown, said that the school often buses students to BYU anyways, and will continue to do that when necessary.
Moreover, the new location brings Provo High closer to Utah Valley University, which should be even more beneficial due to the fact that more college students end up at Provo High from UVU than BYU, as Brown noted.
The BYU Wrestling Club, which practices and competes at Provo High, may have to find a new facility, once the school is relocated.
Groundbreaking is on track to begin this summer, with hopes to open the new school for the start of 2018-2019 school year. Many of the people involved in the relocation process are excited for a new school, but it was a need to increase safety and accommodate for future growth that resulted in the school district’s decision to relocate the high school.
“Because it was built and it’s been adjusted and remodeled and added on for the last several decades, Provo High School has 117 outside entrances. You can’t secure that,” Rash explained, “This new building will give us security. We’re building the school with security in mind to meet today’s concerns.”
Security is not the only issue with Provo High. Rash described how “outrageous” the budget is just to keep the building from crumbling down. It was estimated that over ten years, it would cost $18.3 million to maintain the building. That number, Rash explained, didn’t include the necessary seismic upgrades and remodeling which would have cost more than $40 million, on top of the maintenance budget.
“I walked into one of the classrooms and I could tell it was lopsided. I put a marble down in one corner and it rolled across the room to the other corner,” Rash said. “Provo has a really good reputation of being fiscally conservative and careful with money, but in my opinion, you reach a point where being careful with money is no longer wise—it’s costing you.”
Caleb Price, Coordinator of Communications and Public Relations for the district, had similar opinions to Rash. “All kinds of safety and security issues…needed to be addressed,” Price said.
A bond was originally passed with the plan to re-build on the current location while students attend school. Although some new buildings would have been built, many parts of the campus needed deep renovations and students would have been periodically interrupted by construction.
“We could’ve done it on the current site, but we would have ended up with an inferior product, quite frankly,” Rash explained, “We recognized that for the future of Provo—for the students that will be attending Provo High down the road—we’ll be able to offer them much better opportunities on a larger campus.”
Provo High has many add-on buildings and athletic fields that are blocks away. The new location is a 42-acre lot, with much more room to grow than the 25 acres the high school currently sits on.
Rash also explained that the current campus required renovations necessary to prepare for a larger population in the future. They would need to build floors up with the remodel due to the lack of space. Now they will have the luxury to build what is necessary with room for additional wings in the future.
“The interest of not requiring taxpayers today to pay beyond what’s absolutely necessary…that weighed on us as much, if not more than anything else,” Rash said.
The new campus will be a comprehensive campus that takes advantage of new technology and input from teachers to help make it a space designed for superior classroom learning.
Brown, said, “I’m grateful to the voters who voted for the bond. This is crucial for our city—so just a great big thanks to the community and to the school board.”
After passing such a large bond, the school district also wants to ensure that Provo City and the students will be proud of their new school.
“It’s still Provo High,” Rash said, “Our goal is to not lose that identity. It’s kind of fun to have the meshing of the long history and traditions but with the building that we can be proud of.”
The principal explained that they aren’t discarding the old campus completely. They hope to have displays in the hallways of old yearbooks and reminders of the history that Provo High has.
Brown said, “We call ourselves Provo strong—that’s sort of our thing—showing that we’re Provo strong no matter where we are.”