Canyons district nears decision on new school boundaries
Sandy • In a few weeks, students in Draper will learn whether they get to attend the new high school taking shape near 12800 South and 800 East. Enrollment at Brookwood Elementary will be cut nearly in half. And fourth-graders will find out which middle school they will attend when they become the first class of sixth-graders to move into middle schools in 2013.
Canyons School District is nearing the end of a yearlong effort to redraw the boundaries of every elementary, middle and high school. More than 1,400 public comments have been submitted to the group working on the new boundaries, needed not only because a new high school is opening in 2013, but also because the district plans that year to reconfigure all high schools to include ninth grade and move sixth graders into middle school.
"We see the boundaries as one small piece of building community schools of excellence for these kids so they really are college and career ready," said Tamra Baker, Canyons' director of school performance in elementary and middle schools.
But the process has been complex and challenging. The number of elementary, middle and high schools means Canyons cannot mold complete feeder systems, where all students at one elementary get to progress to the same middle and high schools together. And with more growth in enrollment now at 32,000 students happening in the district's southwest area where there are fewer elementary schools, some schools in Canyons' southern end will be over capacity while several in the northern part will be around 60 percent full.
Canyons, which includes Cottonwood Heights, Midvale, Sandy, Draper and Alta, formed the boundary committee of 26 parents and employees in September 2010. The group looked at keeping neighborhoods intact in boundaries for elementary, middle and high schools and came up with more than 400 distinct neighborhoods. The group also drew boundaries that eliminate "pocket busing" of students from crowded elementary schools to less crowded ones, including Bell View, Edgemont, Midvalley and Sunrise.
The group came up with one recommendation for elementary school boundaries and proposed that a new elementary be built in Draper eventually to relieve crowding at other area schools. But there are two options for both middle and high school boundaries.
Now, the Canyons Board of Education has to make the final call. At a meeting on Oct. 4, board president Tracy Cowdell acknowledged that the boundaries cannot be drawn to please every neighborhood or family.
"As a board, we've come to a conclusion that the boundaries aren't going to be perfect," Cowdell said at the meeting. "We aren't going to hold onto the quest for perfection. We are going to be satisfied with good boundaries."
The board plans to discuss the boundary proposals Oct. 18 and make a final decision Nov. 1.
Comments made at the Oct. 4 meeting illustrate the difficulty of redrawing the lines. White City resident Peter Overson urged the board to keep his unincorporated pocket or "super neighborhood" together instead of splitting it in two. And parents from a Granite Elementary neighborhood just south of 9400 South asked that they be included in Albion Middle and Brighton High boundaries instead of Mount Jordan Middle and Jordan High, because they already use permits for their kids to attend those schools and stay with their peers from Granite.
Meanwhile, Canyons staff is working to fuse the two middle school maps to create a compromise that can please more parents. That map will be presented to the board on Oct. 18.
In Draper, many residents west of Interstate 15 are lobbying to be included in the boundaries for the new high school. One boundary option includes those west of Interstate 15 and south of 12300 South, but Draper residents between 11400 and 12300 South are left out of both options.
"Help us feel like we are part of Draper," resident Jared Pierce told the board. "Most of that town doesn't even think we're part of Draper."
Pierce has collected signatures on a petition asking that his Draper neighborhood west of I-15 and north of 12300 South be included in the new high school boundaries instead of in Jordan High. In an interview, he said he wants his five kids, who are under the age of 12, to feel like they are part of the larger Draper community. He thinks the sense of identity in Draper will only grow stronger when the city's first public high school opens in two years.
But Stephanie Yorgason, a mother in the same neighborhood, pleaded with the board to change the middle school boundaries if the high school boundaries are redrawn, even though she is PTA president at Mount Jordan Middle and loves the school.
"Middle school is a very trying time for social connections. It would be very challenging if it would just be our little neighborhood that goes from Mount Jordan to the Draper high school," Yorgason said at the meeting. "It would be damaging for children â¦ to have to be ripped from all of those social networks."
Yorgason, who would prefer to stick with Jordan High, said the question of whether her neighborhood should be part of the new high school has been "heated" and "divisive." But she hopes friendships remain intact after the dust settles.
She doesn't envy the board's decision.
"If the whole neighborhood wants one thing, that's easy," Yorgason said. "But if the neighborhood is split? I'm glad I don't have to make that decision."
Study • The Canyons Board of Education will review and discuss options for redrawing the district's school boundaries, 5 p.m., Oct. 18, at 9150 S. 500 West, Sandy.
Adoption • The Canyons board plans to take public comments and vote on final maps for elementary, middle and high school boundaries on Nov. 1, at 9150 S. 500 West, Sandy. A meeting agenda will be posted at least 24 hours in advance at canyonsdistrict.org.
View the boundary maps
O See boundary recommendations in Canyons School District. > bit.ly/kwpqaf
See more about comments here.