Bond proposed to fix 14 school buildings in Provo School District

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Community members listen to presentations on details about the unsafe conditions in several schools in Provo and discuss the pros and cons of the Safe Schools Now bond at Dixon Middle School on Oct. 3. (Madison Casagranda)

An upcoming ballot initiative, the Provo School Bond, would put $245 million towards renovating and updating 14 schools in the Provo School District if passed. It will appear in the mail for registered voters on Oct. 15. 

The initiative comes in response to complaints about the structural integrity of various schools in the district.

Dixon Middle School is of particular concern. Citizens and members of the school board met on Oct. 3 at Dixon Middle School to discuss how the school would be affected by the bond.

Board member Rebecca Nielsen went over the school’s situation during the meeting.

“Dixon Middle School was built in 1931, the oldest school in the district,” Nielsen said. “It does not meet current seismic codes. In certain areas of the building, it does not have a fire sprinkler, the electrical work is outdated and inefficient and we have other mechanical issues within the building as well.”

Nielsen shared the benefits of rebuilding a new school on a 20-acre site next to Footprinters Park in Provo, including a larger building, more green space and room for future growth. Nielsen added that the new school would be $10 million cheaper than making all the necessary renovations for the current school building. 

Citizens of Provo expressed concern over the price of the bond given the gradual rise in taxes should the bond pass.

“When you can save $150 million dollars by spending better, that is far kinder to taxpayers,” Provo resident Kristy Lynne said. “It is also wiser to make smaller schools, students learn better in them, but Provo is trying to get bigger facilities rather than small ones.”

Additionally, residents of the Dixon neighborhood have expressed concerns over the moving of the school’s location, citing that the building itself adds community value.

“While the school will be moving, the building itself will undergo renovations,” Nielsen said. “The district is working with organizations such as United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of America to turn this building into a community center that will hopefully continue to help increase community value here.” 

The tax impact of the bond would gradually increase property taxes, peaking in 2026. At the peak, the property taxes on an average home in Provo ($270,000) will increase by $265.77 a year, the equivalent to $22.07 per month.

Another school that would be rebuilt under the bond would be Timpview High School. Constructed in 1977, the school is in desperate need of a 91% rebuild according to the school board.

The school itself appears to be shifting because of the soil on which it was built. Provo School District board member Nate Bryson shared images of the school’s structural decline, including the remains of a cinder block that had fallen from the school’s library ceiling in the spring of 2017.

“This rebuild eliminates any long- or short-term liabilities and risks with the school’s site, including its seismic and soil conditions,” Bryson said.

Timpview High School principal Fidel Montero is also in favor of the proposed rebuild of the school.

“I don’t think there’s disagreement on whether or not Timpview needs to be rebuilt,” Montero said. “Over the past few years there has been a significant amount of structural tension, and the school has essentially been sliding in a southwest direction. Additionally, there have been several cracks in the walls of our south gym and atrium.”

Montero shared the history of the school’s construction, saying that the school was built on clay soil, and at the time, workers did not put up piers to support the building. At the time the school was built, Montero explained, the usage of structural piers in commercial buildings was not standard procedure.

Montero and teachers from the school expressed concern over the safety of the students.

“I think we’re playing with fire right now until we get this problem solved,” Montero said. 

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