WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Washington County students arrived for their first day of classes Monday morning. As the St. George area continues to grow rapidly, the school district now has more than 33,000 students and said new schools are badly needed.
ABC4’s Katie Karalis met with Washington County School District Communications Director Steve Dunham, who said the county has seen an increase in about 1300 students since last year. School officials said they’ve been in search of new classrooms and spaces for its fast-growing community.
More than 1500 students arrived at two brand-new schools, Washington Fields Intermediate, and Crimson Cliffs High School, to kick off the new school year.
Dunham said the new schools helped to alleviate overcrowding at both Desert Hills High School and Sunrise Ridge Intermediate, which were both housing several hundred students over-capacity during the 2018-2019 academic year.
“We had so much growth in these communities,” Dunham said. “We planned these buildings to open and you try to time it about right, but then you get a huge influx of people coming in and you find seats wherever you can for the students.”
Dunham added that finding funding for new schools is tricky, but voters have helped by passing a $125 million school bond initiative last November. The communications director said the biggest challenge is recruiting qualified teachers.
“We’re working with Dixie State University and Southern Utah University to see if we can retain more of those people that are going through their educational programs and keep them here in our district,” said Dunham.
In the next few years, the district expects more and more schools to pop up, starting with a new elementary school set to open in August 2020.