3 Alpine District elementaries are off the chopping block, but school consolidations are still ahead

More closures to come for Alpine District schools, board members say.

Though Lehi, Lindon and Windsor elementary schools have escaped closure — for now — the decision came with a warning from some Alpine school board members: Closures are inevitable.

“Even if we close all three of these schools, it’s just the beginning,” board member Stacy Bateman said at a board meeting earlier this month. “With so many underenrolled schools, there’s going to have to be more consolidations.”

Bateman was referring to the board’s vote in June voted to close Valley View and Sharon elementary schools despite a lawsuit filed by parents and scrutiny by Utah lawmakers over whether the district followed school closure laws.

The lawsuit, which has since been withdrawn, was filed by a group of 33 parents contending the district did not comply with the then-120 day requirement for getting public input on closure decisions. SB143, passed in the 2023 legislative session, changed that requirement to 90 days.

All five schools were initially on the list of possible closures, but after several open houses, the board voted to move forward with only Valley View and Sharon. The board’s actions on July 11 formally removed Lehi, Lindon and Windsor from further consideration.

“We trust that if the Alpine School District decides to pursue closures for any schools in the future, they will follow proper processes, involve stakeholders from the start, consider each school’s unique needs individually and provide adequate time and opportunity for public input before any decisions are made,” the parents said in a joint statement.

Board members agreed there was room for improvement.

“It was pointed out by one of our legislators that this is a process that is going to be taking place more frequently throughout our state,” said board member Ada Wilson, with other districts facing drops in enrollment and potential school closures. “And I think we have an opportunity to put in place the optimal process for what it should look like.”

District officials said more studies need to be done before closing Lehi, Lindon and Windsor.

Superintendent Shane Farnsworth said that with the increased growth in the Lehi area, the closure of Lehi Elementary is not advisable until a new school can be built. The building has seismic safety issues and faces the risk of flooding, but closing it now would mean two rounds of boundary changes, if the board later decides to build a new school in the area, he explained.

Lindon and Windsor both host an array of programs and services, such as the district’s dual language immersion courses, and further studies are also warranted to not interrupt students’ education, Farnsworth said.

But board members Julie King, Joylin Lincoln and Bateman all said the safety needs of the general student population should take precedence, and ultimately voted against discontinuing the closure process for Lindon and Windsor.

“We have to prioritize,” Lincoln said. “And today I have to prioritize general education students and special education students across the district.”

“We have newer safer buildings [than Lindon] that we can move our students and our employees into now,” Bateman said.

The closures and consolidations are necessary, in part, after voters in the Alpine School District turned down a $600 million bond that would have funded the construction of new schools, board members said.

“With the failure of the bond, that limited the capacity of the Alpine School District to meet the urgent, urgent capital needs of this district,” Board President Sara Hacken said. “Without a bond it will take us years to take care of these needs. Schools are still getting old. Schools are still growing, the needs haven’t gone away. And so, we have to look at all kinds of other ways to meet those needs. And it is difficult, it’s gut-wrenching.”

Prepare for some major changes going forward, the board said.