EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

One thing is certain – any upgrade for West High School will be costly

Jan 19, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2023, 5:02 pm

Dome schools...

Weapon detector company facing federal investigation, four high schools in Salt Lake County District utilize the machines. (Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

(Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday night, West High School officials held their third feasibility study community meeting to discuss the four options on the table for a needed upgrade of the building that is more than 100 years old.

The options range from preserving the original 1921/1922 building to demolishing it and starting over. The middle options involve preserving at least some of the iconic facade along 300 West.

Each option is around $300 to $415 million, and would require up to eight years of construction.

There was a buzz of anticipation as parents and alumni took their seats to hear about their options. According to the presentation, if the community were to focus on restoring the old building, they would have to accept that current students would be greatly impacted. Namely, they’d be confined to portable classrooms.

For some students, their entire high school experience would be confined to those portables. And parents like Heidi Schubert weren’t too keen on that.

“So my daughter has already spent two years in portables at Emerson Elementary, I’d really rather she didn’t spend her entire high school in a portable,” Schubert said.

As for the cost of any renovation, Schubert said it might not be worth it.

“I’m gonna be against a lot of people here,” she told KSL NewsRadio. “Do I think the entranceway of West High School is beautiful? Absolutely. It is really impressive.”

“But renovation is incredibly expensive. And from a taxpayer perspective, I don’t think they should do it. I think you deserve a new school.”

Whitney Ward, with VCBO Artchitects, gave the presentation. She said the price of the upgrade for the four options ranges between $300 million and $415 million.

“I think spending is something that’s unique because we’ve had a dramatic shift in the construction industry in the last two years,” Ward said. “And so it’s hard to look at the spending on this and compare it to spending of high schools that were built two, five, ten years ago.

“And I’m personally not in a position to say what it’s worth to the students. But I will say that regardless, this school district is going to have to do a major investment in West High School in the coming years.”

Ward noted that construction costs are not going to decrease going forward, and that the Salt Lake City School District will have to think about the best way to spend those millions of dollars.

“It’s important to think about spending the money in the most beneficial way that you can, and making sure that that money can go as far as it can.”

While specifics are not yet clear, construction is set to begin in 2024.

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One thing is certain – any upgrade for West High School will be costly