Salt Lake City School District Plans to Build New Headquarters

Barrett Carpenter, Sports Editor

Have you heard that the Salt Lake City School District is constructing its new headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City? There will be a new District building built on the site of the current building, located at 440 East 100 South Salt Lake City, UT 84111. Amidst conversations about a new district headquarters, many teachers and staff here at West are calling for a rebuild of the nearly century-old West High building. I interviewed Alan Kearsley, a Business Administrator for SLCSD, about the new district building and any future plans to rebuild West High.

Why is a new building necessary for the SLCSD? According to Kearsley, “ The district office is the only district building that has not received seismic and life-safety upgrades. The district office plays an integral part in the operations of the district and houses functions such as payroll, accounts, human resources, support services, and general governance. It is important that these services continue in the event of a seismic disaster.” Kearsley mentioned that the priority for seismic upgrades went first to school buildings, so the next step is to provide the upgrades to administrative buildings to ensure staff safety. Another reason for the rebuild was that “the electrical capacity of the current district office building is not sufficient to maintain our current level of electrical needs.” Kearsley also mentioned that during the construction of the new building, “Teachers and students will be able to continue to receive the services the district office provides without disruption.”

How much does a project like this cost? According to the SLCSD Annual Budget report, the District is expected to receive $28.1 million for their “Capital and Debt Service Funds […] which includes rebuilding the District Office and ongoing repairs and maintenance [for the 2021-2022 School year]” (District Budget Report 2021). For the 2022-2023 School Year, projected expenditures for the Capital and Debt Service Funds are $34.9 million, a whopping 24.45% increase from previous years. However, Kearsley noted that there is not yet a single set cost for the new District building, since its bidding process is incomplete. So why is the District pulling an estimated $6 million more dollars from the federal government for their own building when West High students and staff have been asking for a new building for years?

Since the District is receiving funds from the State Government, why can’t schools like West do so to fund a rebuild? Kearsley said that “the district has saved funds that will be sufficient to pay for the district office rebuild, which means no bonding will be required. High schools are much more expensive and would require borrowing funds to rebuild. Something like that would require voter approval.” Kearsley also added that “the district is constantly reviewing [West’s] building needs” and that “currently, there is no timetable for [rebuilding West].” Kearsley wanted to assure students and faculty that the current school building is safe, saying “The current West High School building has received seismic retrofits and is a safe building.”

Many concerns that have been voiced by faculty and students point to an idea that West is being neglected by the district in favor of the new district building, but it seems like the district is overdue for a new building. Hopefully, the advantages of a new district building work to better serve the West High population.