Second city considers split from Jordan School District
By lisa schencker
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 09 2014 01:01AM
West Jordan has joined South Jordan in considering breaking from the Jordan School District, already reduced by a previous split that cost Salt Lake County taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
The West Jordan City Council plans to discuss and possibly vote Wednesday night on pursuing a feasibility study looking into leaving the district, where residents rejected a $495 million bond last year.
The city of South Jordan has already ordered its own study amid concerns that the district isn’t keeping pace with that city’s rapid growth.
Unlike South Jordan, however, West Jordan isn’t interested in leaving because of dissatisfaction with the district, said Chris McConnehey, a West Jordan city councilman. Rather, West Jordan is only looking into it because of the threats from South Jordan.
"If that were to happen, we’re concerned about the effect it would have on residents of West Jordan," McConnehey said. "There are a whole lot of questions about what would the impact be on education. Right now we want to make sure we have every option available to us, and one of those options would also be to do the same and create our own school district."
If the two cities were to break from the district, Riverton, Herriman, Bluffdale, Copperton and southwest portions of unincorporated Salt Lake County would remain.
McConnehey said West Jordan doesn’t necessarily want to split, but leaders want to make sure they have choices should South Jordan leave. The West Jordan council will consider Wednesday night whether to spend up to $46,338 on a study.
The South Jordan feasibility study is expected back by the beginning of August. At that point, that council may vote on whether to place the question of a split on the November ballot. It would ultimately be up to South Jordan voters whether to actually leave the district.
Sandy Riesgraf, a spokeswoman for the Jordan district, said Tuesday district leaders feel the same way about the possibility of West Jordan leaving as they do about South Jordan exiting.
"We just don’t feel it’s in the best interest of the children to split up the district, the opportunities they would miss out on," Riesgraf said.
Richard Osborn, president of the district board, also said he doesn’t believe a split would be good for kids.
The district board recently approved a formal resolution opposing a South Jordan split.
That resolution claims a split would mean fewer educational opportunities for South Jordan students; increase costs for taxpayers because of the duplication of services; affect the seniority and benefits of current employees; be divisive for the southwest valley; and possibly create other unintended consequences.
They’re assertions with which South Jordan City Councilman Chuck Newton disagrees.
South Jordan, however, still hasn’t completely given up on working out differences with the district.
On July 1, the South Jordan council passed its own resolution asking the district to take a number of actions, including giving the city a plan by July 30 detailing the types and locations of new schools to be located in South Jordan within the next five years.
The South Jordan resolution also calls on the district to evaluate its construction methods "to assure the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars."
And it asks the district to present a plan to the city addressing the end of supplemental funding provided to the district under state law following a 2007 split.
Voters on the east side of the district felt their building needs weren’t being met, among other issues, and formed the new Canyons School District.
"Those are basic governance issues that every school district ought to be doing … and they’re not doing them," Newton said Tuesday. "We just want the basics in administering the school district and keeping costs low for everybody."
Newton said if the district is able to give the city everything it asks for in the resolution, city leaders will likely not be in favor of a split. And if South Jordan abandons its talk of dividing, West Jordan would also likely drop the issue, McConnehey said.
Osborn said Tuesday the district board is working on answering the South Jordan resolution. The board held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issues.
"Many of the things that they had brought up, we’re doing it in one form or another anyway," Osborn said. "We’ve looked at the suggestions. We have discussed them. We’re working on incorporating some of their ideas."
Osborn said the district expects to have a response ready by the end of the month.
"I think we’ll be able to answer each of their points," Osborn said. "As to the satisfaction level, that’s up to them."