Jordan: We need a record $501M bond for schools revamp
Jordan School District residents could be voting on the largest bond proposal in Utah history a request for more than $500 million.
The district's student population has boomed in the last dozen years, rocketing 60 percent to 51,000 students, with more than 2,000 new students expected this fall.
Board members this week reviewed a preliminary plan for a $501 million, five-year bond, which would allow them to build eight new elementary schools, two new middle schools and a new high school. It would pay for new buildings at West Jordan elementary and middle schools, among many other projects for 2014-2019.
Homeowners would pay about $8 to $10 more in monthly taxes per $100,000 of house value, according to district estimates.
The Jordan school board will vote on the bond during a public meeting Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. Members are likely to approve the bond request and set the exact amount, which could increase up to $520 million. If approved, voters would consider the bond on Nov. 5.
Earlier this summer, officials sent 72,000 surveys to district homeowners. In the about 7,900 surveys returned, homeowners favored a then-proposed $540 million five-year payment plan to cover the cost of building more schools.
The alternatives to new schools could be inconvenient, such as busing students past neighborhood schools to district classrooms with fewer students or eliminating magnet programs. It could mean splitting the school day in two, with half of the students at a school from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. or so, and the other half coming in after 1 p.m. and staying until after 7 p.m.
Board members seemed positive about going forward with the preliminary $501 million bond plan on Tuesday. Member Peggy Jo Kennett said the bond provided the right mix of new schools along with needed renovations.
Member Kayleen Whitelock asked officials to come up with alternatives for the South Jordan Middle School auditorium. The bond calls for chairs to be bolted to the floor, unlike the folded chairs used now because of fire hazard concerns. But the bolted seats mean an auditorium capacity of 500 in a school with about 1,500 students.
In 2012, South Jordan was one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. within its size class. Officials credit the growth with new homes in burgeoning Daybreak.
The district covering the south portion of Salt Lake County has 53 schools, including the new Copper Mountain Middle School opening in August. Herriman Elementary is slated to welcome students in 2014.
Officials said that even with the new schools provided by the bond, the district will maintain the same number of campuses, which means some schools running under capacity would need to be closed or consolidated.
Superintendent Patrice Johnson suggested the board form a committee of district officials and community members to look into any possible closures.
Herriman resident Mike Bruen said in an interview he will support the bond because it's possible that without it, his two children could face long bus rides.
"I figure it's worth about $25 extra a month," Bruen said. "Do we really want children going to school until 7 or 8 p.m.? That's crazy."
Jordan School District's big bond
Jordan School District officials this week reviewed a preliminary $501 million five-year bond that would include the following projects:
• $316 million: Build eight new elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Also build a south transportation facility and replace the Jordan Applied Technical Center in Sandy.
• $149 million: Remodel and renovate 30 schools and the auxiliary services building. Larger projects include $30 million to replace West Jordan Middle School; $16 million to replace West Jordan Elementary; $13 million for work at Joel Jensen Middle and Oquirrh Hills Middle; $12 million at West Jordan High; $11.3 million at Riverton High; $6.9 million at Copper Hills High; $6 million at Mountain Shadows Elementary; and $2.6 million at Jordan Ridge Elementary.
• $36 million: Buy 206 acres at $175,000 per acre.
Source: Jordan School District. Epic $501 million bond would build, remodel and close Jordan District schools