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South Jordan nearing decision on split

Published July 28, 2014 9:57 am

Meeting • Council will get results of feasibility study.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Months of arguments, frustration and tension have all led up to the next two weeks — when South Jordan City leaders will finally decide whether to place the question of a school district split before voters.

The Jordan School District board is scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss whether to enter into an agreement with South Jordan and other cities — centered on planning and communication issues — in hopes of preventing a possible split. If the board chooses to enter into the agreement, it could temper some South Jordan City leaders' desire to leave the district.

The South Jordan city council could then decide as early as Wednesday night or as late as Aug. 5 whether to put the question of a split on the November ballot or enter into the agreement with the district.

It's something city council members, school board members and even lawmakers have spent months discussing. Somewhat quieter, however, have been the voices of parents, many of whom have been watching from the sidelines waiting to see if any of this talk leads to action.

South Jordan city leaders first began talking about a split amid concerns that the district wasn't keeping up with the city's rapid growth.

Brice Jensen, a father of six kids, most of whom attend South Jordan middle and elementary schools, said he hasn't been following the issue closely. But on it's face, he's not a fan of the idea.

"It just seems like there's a lot of costs involved in trying to do that, and I don't know if it's necessary," Jensen said.

Many are concerned about the potential price tag and having to duplicate administrative services.

"To me, it's just more division, more money going to bureaucracy and less money going to the kids," said Dalesse Bowles, who will have a sophomore at Bingham High in the fall.

"I think there are too many chiefs already," said David Bankhead, also a Bingham High parent. "I just think it would be too expensive to split and not cost effective."

Jennifer Ngatuvai, a mother of five, most of whom attend South Jordan elementary and middle schools, called the idea of splitting "hypocritical" after what Jordan went through the last time cities split to form the Canyons District. Other districts in Salt Lake County were forced by state law to shift money to Jordan district in the aftermath of that split to help it make up for lost revenue.

"I think if you're going to split off you need to do it in a logical way and not just take one city that has more than others and leave the rest [on] their own," Ngatuvai said. "To take a city in the middle of the district and separate the district like that is wrong."

Eric Hansen, a father of eight kids who attend South Jordan elementary and middle schools and Bingham, said he also doesn't have a lot of information about a possible split, but his initial reaction is that it doesn't sound good.

"I have a hard time believing that South Jordan has the capacity to make its own school district," Hansen said.

He said he plans to attend the South Jordan meeting Wednesday to learn more about the proposal.

On Wednesday evening, the South Jordan city council will unveil and consider the results of a feasibility study looking into a possible split. That feasibility study should answer many of the questions South Jordan residents and leaders have about a potential split. The council will also take public comment about the idea that night.

The council is also awaiting documents requested from the Jordan district and waiting to see if the district's board and the leaders of four other cities within the district will sign the interlocal agreement.

If everyone can sign the agreement, South Jordan won't put the question of a split on the ballot, said councilman Chuck Newton.

South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord said the vast majority of feedback he's heard from South Jordan residents has been anti-split. Alvord has come out publicly against a split.

That's not to say, of course, that everyone is against such a move. Newton said it seems to him that many South Jordan residents are unhappy with the district, and he believes they may be in favor of a split if they had more information. Newton had been in favor of putting the question on the ballot, but said Friday he's now torn. He said he's now willing to stick with the district for another year to see if it can improve.

David George, a South Jordan elementary and middle schools parent, said splitting could benefit the city's kids in some ways.

"The more local control you have, the smaller you are, the more responsive it is to the needs of the schools and kids," George said.

And South Jordan Middle School parent Elaine Angilau said she can see pros and cons to the idea of splitting. For example, a split might help to relieve overcrowding at some schools, but it could also cost more taxpayer money.

She said she hasn't yet decided whether she's in favor of or against a divide.

"I think overall they've given it some good thought and this is a decision that needs to be made," Angilau said, "but we will never know the repercussions until we're five years out." —

Meetings about a possible split

The Jordan School District board will hold a meeting Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss entering into an interlocal agreement with South Jordan and other cities in hopes of avoiding a possible split. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with a closed session and then go into open session afterward at 7905 S. Redwood Road in West Jordan.

The South Jordan City Council will then hold a study session at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss a feasibility study into a possible split from the Jordan School District. At 6 p.m. on Wednesday the council will hold another public meeting to hear more about the feasibility study results, hear public comment about the idea of placing the question of a split on the November ballot and will potentially vote on the issue or whether to enter an interlocal agreement with the district and other cities.

The 4 p.m. meeting will be held in the City Hall Council Chambers, 1600 W. Towne Center Drive, South Jordan. The second meeting at 6 p.m. will be held at the South Jordan Community Center, 10778 S. Redwood Road, South Jordan.