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Jordan school board approves agreement to stop district split

Published July 29, 2014 7:29 am

Education • Members hope deal will appease cities upset with services.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jordan School District board members made the first step to prevent a district split Monday by approving an interlocal agreement drafted to improve communication and planning between the district and cities.

"The purpose of doing this is so that children and employees are not faced with a district split and fewer opportunities," board member Kayleen Whitelock said. "If we do not do this, that's where it's going to go ... if it means that children get more opportunities then it gets my vote."

The board's attorney will draft a final version of the agreement with recommended changes to language before the South Jordan City Council meets on Wednesday.

The City Council may decide as early as Wednesday night or as late as Aug. 5 whether to enter into the agreement with the district or put the question of a split on the November ballot. City leaders first began talking about a split amid concerns that the district wasn't keeping up with the South Jordan's rapid growth.

The agreement was drafted by South Jordan's city attorney Robert Wall and revised by the board's attorney Joan Andrews. It requires the district to present the cities with a five-year plan of implementing new schools, but can be reviewed annually and terminated if necessary.

The contract is centered on improving planning strategies to build schools for the growing cities and fostering better communication between the district and the cities of South Jordan, West Jordan, Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton.

Board member Lynn Crane opposed giving the cities power over the school district, but realized the board was in a tough spot and ultimately voted to approve the agreement. The vote was unanimous by the board.

On Wednesday evening, the South Jordan City Council will unveil and consider the results of a feasibility study looking into a possible split. It will also take public comment about the idea.

The council is also awaiting documents requested from the Jordan district and waiting to see if the district's board and the leaders of four other cities within the district will sign the interlocal agreement.

If everyone can sign the agreement, South Jordan won't put the question of a split on the ballot, said councilman Chuck Newton.

Many parents have been watching from the sidelines, waiting to see if any of the talk of a split leads to action.

Brice Jensen, a father of six kids, most of whom attend South Jordan middle and elementary schools, said he hasn't been following the issue closely. But on its face, he's not a fan of the idea.

"It just seems like there's a lot of costs involved in trying to do that, and I don't know if it's necessary," Jensen said.

Many are concerned about the potential price tag and having to duplicate administrative services.

"To me, it's just more division, more money going to bureaucracy and less money going to the kids," said Dalesse Bowles, who will have a sophomore at Bingham High in the fall.

"I think there are too many chiefs already," said David Bankhead, also a Bingham High parent. "I just think it would be too expensive to split and not cost effective."

Jennifer Ngatuvai, a mother of five, most of whom attend South Jordan elementary and middle schools, called the idea of splitting "hypocritical" after what Jordan went through the last time cities split to form the Canyons District. Other districts in Salt Lake County were forced by state law to shift money to the Jordan district in the aftermath of that split to help it make up for lost revenue.

"I think if you're going to split off you need to do it in a logical way and not just take one city that has more than others and leave the rest [on] their own," Ngatuvai said. "To take a city in the middle of the district and separate the district like that is wrong."

Eric Hansen, a father of eight kids who attend South Jordan elementary and middle schools and Bingham, said he also doesn't have a lot of information about a possible split, but his initial reaction is that it doesn't sound good.

"I have a hard time believing that South Jordan has the capacity to make its own school district," Hansen said.

He said he plans to attend the South Jordan meeting Wednesday to learn more about the proposal. —

Council takes up the split Wednesday

The South Jordan City Council will hold a study session at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss a feasibility study into a possible split from the Jordan School District. The 4 p.m. meeting will be held in the City Hall Council Chambers, 1600 W. Towne Center Drive, South Jordan.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday the council will hold another public meeting to hear more about the feasibility study results, hear public comment about the idea of placing the question of a split on the November ballot and will potentially vote on the issue or whether to enter an interlocal agreement with the district and other cities. The meeting at 6 p.m. will be held at the South Jordan Community Center, 10778 S. Redwood Road, South Jordan.