Lake Mountain Middle School won't be finished for months 02

A worker with Hogan & Associates Construction readies screws as he works on ceiling panels while construction continues on Lake Mountain Middle School on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Saratoga Springs. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

It’s that time of year again, even if grade schoolers and college students alike protest: back-to-school season. Yes, this summer did seem to fly by quickly, especially with our rainier-than-normal spring and delayed hot weather wave. Our condolences to students who feel they didn’t get their fair share of sunshine before having to hit the books again.

Though summer fun is winding down, the new school year is not without some excitement and drama.

Alpine School District is opening not one, but four new schools this fall: Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain, Lake Mountain Middle School in Saratoga Springs, Liberty Hills Elementary School in Lehi and Centennial Elementary School in Orem, and more are to come soon. We commend the district’s voters for passing the bond needed to finance these new schools in 2016 because they recognized the needs of our booming population for new school buildings to adequately house and teach the kids of Utah Valley.

Though, we do have to mention the fact that Alpine School District’s 2016 bond for $387 million has gone heavily over budget — $73.75 million, to be exact. Each school rebuild and new school has exceeded its budget by more than $2 million, according to the district. Reasons for the bad calculations given by the district include: some schools’ scopes increasing as the projects grew, bad construction cost estimations, increasing construction costs due to tariffs and demand among other things, labor shortage, and more.

We’re not here to tell school administrators and leaders how to do their job — they know much more about their sector than we do. And we don’t want to complain about money being spent for such needed school building additions and improvements to our family-centric cities. But the discrepancy in the bond amount vs. the budget needed to carry out these planned projects cannot be ignored, leading us to feel the estimations and planning could have been better researched and carried out.

Our community is forecast to continue to grow rapidly, meaning more and more kids joining our school districts. This is just the beginning of Alpine’s complicated issue of providing adequate school buildings for the rising number of students. More and more buildings will be needed. And the district seems to have gotten off on the wrong foot trying to accommodate the rapid growth. We hope this current over-budget situation does not cause problems for future bond proposals and projects that will be greatly needed in our area to build more schools.

Another situation stirring up some excitement (and no doubt, stress) at the start of this school year is Saratoga Spring’s new middle school, Lake Mountain. In a rare turn of events, the building’s construction schedule has run far behind, making the building far from ready to house students when the semester started last week.

We can’t imagine the amount of pressure and confusion this situation has caused for both administrators and teachers trying to problem-solve and for parents and students figuring out how to adapt to the unique circumstances. Our amazing teachers already have so much on their plates without nearly enough compensation or recognition, but these teachers have gone above and beyond figuring out how to adapt their lessons and student communication to a temporary blended education model. The model includes both technology and face-to-face meetings until the school building can partially open at the predicted date of Sept. 10.

On the college side of things, both universities in Utah County continue to add options for its students. BYU added two new majors — Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Data Science and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Software Engineering — along with a new manufacturing engineering department and several new student wellness classes. And UVU is now offering a Bachelor of Architecture degree. We applaud both universities in their efforts to expand and become more appealing and well rounded to current and future students. The schools are a great part of our community and continue to grow impressively.

We also admire the actions taken by BYU to update Honor Code Office policies in response to many students’ protests and recommendations for improvement. In our eyes, the office still has a ways to go to become the best possible balance between students’ rights and needs and the school’s policy enforcement, but we didn’t expect drastic changes all at once. The fact that a school heavily rooted in traditions and value systems is making changes after listening and responding to complaints is a win for students, and we hope to see further incremental changes for the better as they school year goes on.