School construction costs rising in Utah amid boom

(AP) – Building new high schools along the Wasatch Front could soon exceed $145 million, an increase of nearly 50% in recent years.

The steep rise is due to several factors, including Utah’s strong economy and a low unemployment rate as well as escalating costs for materials, driven in part by tariffs affecting the price of steel and aluminum, the Deseret News reported.

The new Farmington High School cost $77.5 million when it opened last year, and a new high school that opened in Herriman this fall cost $82 million.

The projected cost for Granite School District’s planned Cyprus High School, though, is $145 million, and a rebuild of Skyline High School is expected to exceed $127 million.

“If the economy is going gangbusters and you’re trying to build a new building at the same time other large buildings are going up, it can be a problem. It really can be,” said Terry Shoemaker, executive director of Utah School Boards Association.

Even as school districts compete against one another for construction labor and resources, there are also other major projects like the $3.6 billion Salt Lake City International Airport rebuild and the new Utah State Prison. There’s also plenty of new housing and office space in the works.

“There’s just so much building going on wherever you look along the Wasatch Front,” said Leon Wilcox, business administrator of the Canyons School District, during a recent study session.

The situation has some districts extending project timelines and others exploring financing options, such as selling land to raise money or combining school populations to build one building instead of two.

One school district even flirted with the idea of designing a high school like a college classroom building, with office space for educators and shared classrooms, but that was a nonstarter among teachers.

Meanwhile, the state’s school-age population keeps growing. By 2065, it’s projected to increase by 49% to reach nearly 1 million, according to an analysis by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

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