School District receives $20 milllion from the state for new Blanding Elementary School

The San Juan School District received word in January that the state legislature through the state board of education will be awarding $20 million towards the new Blanding Elementary School.

The award is anticipated to cover about 42-percent of the estimated $47 million cost for the new school in Blanding.

At the January 24 school board meeting business administrator Tyrel Pemberton reviewed the history of the work behind the new Blanding Elementary School.

Pemberton explained in August of 2022 district staff discussed with the board the state legislatures HB 475 that had appropriated $50 million in one-time funds for capital projects for small school districts in the state of Utah.

With the support of the school board the San Juan School District applied for funding for three projects in November 2022. 

Among the projects included the new Blanding Elementary school, safety upgrades to the entrances of four schools in the district, and an application for a new transportation building.

Following consideration by a panel created by the state board of education the school district was awarded some funds for the safety upgrade but not for the new school or transportation building.

Pemberton explained that the district learned that as part of their criteria the panel would prioritize projects that are ready to go.

In January 2023 the board approved plans to move forward with capital projects including the 

recommendation of the construction of a new Blanding Elementary School. Pemberton said the item was discussed nearly every month in board meetings since that time.

“There were a few things that the school board did that really helped us. We were trying to get a project ready so we could apply for–and have a much better opportunity to receive–funding from this $50 million that the legislature put aside. All along that was just a one-time appropriation, so at any point in time, depending on the state legislature, that fund may not be funded again. We were fortunate enough in the 2023 session that the legislature appropriated some money again to this rural school district, only certain school districts could apply.”

With a limited number of districts eligible for the funds, San Juan School District went to work to make the project attractive to the committee. Pemberton explained one step already done that helped the application was the district’s approved capital levy which sets aside funds annually for capital projects. The district also hired a design team and construction management to get the project rolling, as well as holding committee meetings with representation from the school community council and other community members providing input in late summer and early fall of 2023. On January 11 the district received word that the application was approved for $20 million from the state to help build the new Blanding Elementary School.

 “As a board of education, the decisions you made to help get us to this point, I think, is a huge win for our county. To have $20 million from the state board of education to support this project of a new elementary school for our Blanding Elementary School students.”

A staff report also showed the district’s $26.8 million in capital fund balance with an estimated addition of $600,000 to the fund means the district could cover the estimated cost of the school without dipping into the $10 million in reserves.

Members of the school board approved a letter of thanks to be sent to the state board of education and staff for the award for the new elementary school project.

On a related note members of the Blanding general public were able to participate in a public engagement meeting on January 22 at San Juan High School.

Community members heard an approximate 45 minute presentation from the design team, before providing comments for about an hour. The meeting in its entirety can be found on the district website. The draft plans and a community survey has been sent to parents/guardians and students at Blanding Elementary school.

Community members can also access the survey and provide feedback on the draft through a link online at

Pemberton said the district has already received input through the forum.

“We received a lot of good insightful comments and feedback from that meeting that we need to look at and review. As we collect some more of that data, I think we’ll bring that back in February, but our design team can review a lot of that information we received back. A lot of the  community had good insightful thoughts that we can look at incorporating.”

Comments provided at the January 22 meeting covered many different topics. Among them were concerns for enough bike racks, discussions about parking, drainage areas, bus drop-off design and school safety.

The two most common topics of comments were concerns about the size of the school being adequate for future growth and the need for additional gymnasium space in the community.

The board approved the site for the building in June, an undeveloped lot on the southwest corner of 800 N and 100 W. The lot is on the opposite corner of the Blanding Stake Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The current draft plan would be similar to other recently built elementary schools in the district, making the shape of the letter E laying down, with the Main entrance facing East.

The main entrance to the building by the school administrative offices, a kitchen and cafeteria in one corner and a gym in the other with spectator capacity of 600 people on one side.

The building draft plan includes three wings leading to classrooms at the ends and one in the middle of the building for a total of 26 classrooms. Additional different classrooms, special education rooms, and multi-use rooms would also be included in the building. Behind the building would be a fenced off play area including hardscape and grass areas as well as locations for playground equipment. Drop-off and parking areas would be located in front of the school in the current draft plans.

The survey to provide feedback on the draft plan is set to be accessible through February 9, to allow the board to review comments at their February 14 meeting.


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