ST. GEORGE – City officials approved the pending sale of 6 acres in downtown St. George to the Washington County School District for the construction of a new elementary school. The action helps bring a three-way deal between the city, school district and Dixie State University one step closer to reality.
The new school on the horizon?
“As we get looking at what we need in the downtown area, we do need a new school,” school district Superintendent Larry Bergeson said. “East Elementary is aging.”
Bergeson said the school district is looking at possibly spending several hundred-thousand dollars to improve and repair the school. It’s something the school district doesn’t want to do, he said. The 6-acre parcel of land currently makes up the Elks Field and adjacent horseshoe pits that sit on the west end of the Dixie Sunbowl.
“This works for us,” Bergeson said of the new school site.
The new elementary school will be two-stories in order to fit on the property it is purchasing from the city. Bergeson said the school district has seen the benefit of multistory buildings, using the recently constructed, three-story Dixie Middle School as an example.
There are pros and cons to the design, he said, but overall it helped cut down on the school’s footprint, which also helped cut overall building costs. As well, the district is excited about the design of the new school, he said.
As space is limited on the 6-acre parcel, Bergeson said there have been concerns about the play area for the students. Something that will help offset that will be a high school size gym inside the school, he said.
“We’re satisfied that (the location) meets our needs adequately,” Bergeson said, “and we’re excited about the opportunity to build a school of this design so that we can see how well it works.”
The City Council unanimously approved the sale of the property for its yet-to-be negotiated fair market value. The city has also offered the use of the Dixie Sunbowl and nearby Vernon Worthen Park to the school district as needed in connection with the new school.
If remaining details work out by the next county school board meeting in February, Bergeson said, construction on the new school could begin in March or April. Elementary schools usually take a year to build, but the distinct would like a little more time than that, he said.
Ultimately, the goal is to have the school ready for use by fall 2016.
The details that need to be worked out still include getting associated contracts from Dixie State University and the City of St. George. Once the district has the paperwork taken care of, ground could be broken soon after.
East Elementary and Dixie State University
There isn’t much DSU will be able to do with East Elementary until the new elementary school is built and the Washington County School District vacates the building. Once that happens though, the university plans to turn the former elementary into the new home of its school of eduction.
Steve Johnson, DSU public relations director, said the university is very fortunate to be able to inherit a preexisting building that its landlocked campus can expand into. Better still, it already has class and office space set up inside.
“That’s a windfall for the university,” Johnson said, “that we would already have a building in place that has those types of facilities that would allow us to move in and keep the operations of our (school of education) ongoing.”
The Legislature previously allotted the university $1.5 million for the purchase of East Elementary.
Some happy, some not
“At this point we count it as a win-win-win,” Bergeson said of the three-way deal between the school district, university and city. “Right now everybody’s on board.”
There is possibly a fourth win, Bergeson added, if they count people who wanted to preserve the Sunbowl. Some city residents see the 66-year old structure as a part of the city’s history that should be preserved, and have been rather vocal on the matter. Others residents are of a different mind.
During the public comment period concerning the pending sale of city property, St. George resident Richard Hutchins said it is time to get rid of the Sunbowl because it has become a dilapidated eyesore.
“My appreciation for nostalgia is immense,” Hutchins said. “But there are times granny is on life-support and its time to it let it go.”
Hutchins asked why the school school district couldn’t have taken the Sunbowl’s location instead of the Elks Field. City Manager Gary Esplin said the school district didn’t want the school next to 400 East for safety reasons. Bergeson confirmed that point when he spoke to the City Council.
Mayor Jon Pike added that tearing down the Sunbowl would be expensive for the school district, and that building on a field next to it is more preferable moneywise.
As for the future of the Sunbowl, Pike reiterated that the city is looking to have it used on a more regular basis instead of just once or twice a year. Such uses may include soccer and even semipro football, Pike said.
“I respectfully disagree with you that the Sunbowl has outlived its life,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said to Hutchins.
City officials said the sale of Elks Field is an entirely separate matter from the Sunbowl, though Pike did say it could preserve the arena for a while longer.
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- Pike reflects on 2014, sees new year as one for parks, recreation projects – January, 2015
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- Sunbowl, Roundup go pink; 80th annual rodeo; STGnews Photo Gallery – September 2014
- Last dance for Dixie’s Round-up Rodeo and Sunbowl? – September 2013
- On the EDge: Save the Sunbowl – September 2012
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