South Jordan leaders took the first step toward a possible split from the Jordan School District on Tuesday evening, deciding to request a study on the feasibility of such of a move.
The South Jordan City Council decided to issue a request for proposals to carry out a feasibility study in the coming months. Once the results come back, the council will decide whether to put the question to voters in November. It ultimately would be up to South Jordan voters to decide whether to split.
The decision to pursue a feasibility study — which may cost between $30,000 and $40,000 — follows concerns that the Jordan district isn’t keeping pace with the city’s rapid growth. Some council members have said other cities are getting the new schools that South Jordan needs.
The Jordan school board decided in March to buy land for construction of two new schools in the city. But that purchase may be too little, too late for some in South Jordan.
Several council members said Tuesday evening they weren’t yet decided on whether to split. They said they simply want more information in order to make a decision.
"I support doing feasibility study, however, I have not made up my mind whether to split and the reason is because ... we don’t have the information that I think we need ... in order to make this informed decision," said councilman Chris Rogers.
Councilman Chuck Newton said it is important to consider the outcome of the study before making a decision.
"If the information doesn’t support it there’s absolutely no reason to consider putting it on the ballot," Newton said of a split. "If the information supports it then I’m sure voters would like to have it on the ballot to make the choice."
Mayor Dave Alvord cautioned council members that the study will likely reveal that a split would be good financially for South Jordan but not necessarily its neighbors. He asked council members to consider that before moving ahead with the study.
"I hate to pay for the study to find out this is really good for us and this is the wrong thing for us to do for our neighbors, and then we back out and we’ve wasted $30,000," Alvord said.
Alvord asked whether council members are prepared to "be the Canyons of the west side," referring to the Canyons District, which formed after east side voters decided to break away from Jordan in 2007. That split followed complaints from east side residents that construction needs on their side were being overlooked in favor of those on the district’s fast-growing west side, among other issues. That split cost taxpayers throughout Salt Lake County tens of millions of dollars.
Council members, however, said they would like more information. Plus, council member Steve Barnes said it’s not just about the money.
"It’s about having the schools that we need and the quality of education that we need," Barnes said.
Attempts to reach Jordan district board members Kayleen Whitelock, Richard Osborn and Susan Pulsipher for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday evening. Their precincts include South Jordan.
But South Jordan resident Susan Strebel, who attended the meeting Tuesday, said she opposes a split. She said South Jordan is acting like the old east side of the Jordan District, when its neighbors need its support.
"It’s just harmed. It’s just hurt people and morale is so low on both sides," Strebel said of the effects of Canyons splitting from Jordan. Strebel also works in the Jordan district office. "I can see no good in becoming a smaller district. Someone says, ‘We’ll be on top of things. We’ll know what’s going on. We’ll have more say.’ We have that now. Go to your board meetings."
The South Jordan City Council decided to pursue the feasibility study informally at an open study session Tuesday after four of five members indicated general support. The council will have to take a formal vote later this summer if it wants to place the matter on the November ballot.
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