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South Jordan mayor opposes school district split


By lisa schencker

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 21 2014 05:26PM
Updated Aug 2, 2014 09:55AM

The mayor of South Jordan is taking a stand against splitting the Jordan School District, although leaders of his city were the ones who started the discussion.

South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord posted an open letter on his Facebook page Monday, expressing his opposition to a possible split.

"The right course is for us to remain a member of the (Jordan district)," Alvord wrote. "This decision and my opinion have not come easily. There are many good arguments on both sides of this issue."

The city is awaiting the results of a feasibility study it ordered earlier this year to look into a possible split.

City leaders feared the district wasn’t keeping pace with the city’s rapid growth, among other issues. The study’s results are expected at the end of this month, and the city council could ask South Jordan voters if they want to split from the rest of the district.

In the lengthy letter, Alvord lists possible reasons for the district to split and his argument against each. Among other things, he writes that the district is doing a commendable job educating students and financially "making a little go a long way."

He also wrote that he previously was concerned that the district wasn’t treating South Jordan equitably. But he said he’s now encouraged that the district bought land in the Daybreak development to build new schools.

A split also would not be good for the city financially, as South Jordan would have to build a new high school, the mayor wrote.

"Jordan School District is providing, for the money, an excellent educational experience," Alvord wrote. "For these reasons, I think it’s in our own best interest to stay with the district."

South Jordan city councilman Chuck Newton, however, said Monday he doesn’t agree with the mayor’s assessment. Newton said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’d like to see a split, but he wants to see the question put before voters.

"Unfortunately, [Alvord] set up some straw men that he then turns around and knocks down which have nothing to do with the issues regarding the resolution that was passed," Newton said, referring to a resolution the city council passed earlier this month asking the district to take a number of actions. Among those was that the district, by July 30, give the city a plan detailing the types and locations of new schools in South Jordan within the next five years.

Newton also took issue with Alvord’s assertion that the district would lose out financially in a split. Newton said South Jordan would not need to build a new high school immediately, and he said staying with the district would mean eventual tax increases as the district deals with financial repercussions of the last split.

Sandy Riesgraf, a Jordan district spokeswoman, said Monday that district leaders agree with Alvord’s assessment.

"We’re also grateful that the mayor has verified the facts we’ve been sharing with our patrons for months," said Steve Dunham, another district spokesman.

School district officials recently met with the leaders of South Jordan and four other cities to try to forge an agreement in hopes of thwarting a possible split. The cities’ representatives left that meeting optimistic about the agreement, which they pledged to take back to their councils. The district board is scheduled to discuss that possible agreeement at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

lschencker@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lschencker

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