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Jordan District leaders talk bonds, growth

Published April 2, 2014 7:20 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When voters decided against a $495 million bond last year, Jordan District leaders knew they would need to consider other ways to deal with rapid growth.

On Tuesday, district board members began weighing more of those options, including asking voters to consider another, smaller bond in November; creating magnet programs; and/or changing school boundaries when a school needs more than six portable classrooms.

All three of those options were among the most highly recommended items on a list of more than 50 possibilities ranked by the district's building utilization committee.

The board already approved a number of boundary changes earlier this year to deal with growth in the face of the failure of the nearly half billion dollar bond last November.

The board's discussion of the list of recommendations at a study session Tuesday was an early first step toward more changes. They discussed only the most highly recommended items Tuesday, and plan to meet again to ponder the rest of the suggestions. Some of the larger suggestions would have to eventually be voted on by the board before going into effect.

The committee ranked as its No. 1 recommendation that the board consider creating magnet programs to attract students to under-utilized buildings. Its No. 9 recommendation was to consider changing school boundaries when more than six portable classrooms are needed at a school. And its No. 10 recommendation was to go to voters with a "new, much smaller bond this November."

Board members did not specifically discuss how big of a bond that might be.

Board member Susan Pulsipher, however, said it's important board members consider all the recommendations before asking voters for another bond. She said she'd then like to go to voters with a "much smaller bond" as soon as possible.

"We need to say to our community we have explored these options and these are the things we have done," Pulsipher said.

Several other board members, however, said they'd prefer to wait on another bond.

"My opinion is the bond failed, the alternatives were clearly laid out to patrons of the school district, we're trying to implement those alternatives, and I would like to see how those alternatives work," said board member J. Lynn Crane. "We can't afford to have another bond fail."

Board member Peggy Jo Kennett agreed that it would be better to wait.

"We need to implement the changes first and see how things go," Kennett said. "To me, it would feel really rushed if the board tried to do another bond this year."

The board also discussed a number of the other highly-ranked recommendations Tuesday, including that the board put four to six portable classrooms at each school. And the committee strongly recommended schools ensure all teaching stations are used as classrooms (not as storage or labs) before more portable classrooms are added.

The idea of closing West Jordan Elementary School was ranked relatively low by the committee. The committee ranked selling West Jordan Elementary as number 31 out of 52 possibilities, in the category of "less likely to recommend."

Dozens of West Jordan Elementary parents showed up to a March board meeting to protest the idea of closing their school. A number of parents and students spoke at that meeting, urging the board to upgrade their school instead.

Several parents who attended the board's study session Tuesday evening said they're glad to see it so far down the list, but they'd rather see it taken off the list entirely.

"It eases a little bit of insecurity, but the fact we're even on the list — you have to fight for your school," said West Jordan parent and PTA leader Kassie Brock.

"It's more than just a school," added West Jordan parent Samantha Robinson, also a school PTA leader, "it's a community."

lshencker@sltrib.com