West Jordan neighbors rally to influence school boundary changes
Dec 03, 2018 03:46PM
● By Jet Burnham
Parents campaign to influence boundary decisions. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | firstname.lastname@example.org
When boundary changes were initially announced in September, many West Jordan residents resisted when the board decided to move them from their schools to leave room for future students in undeveloped areas west of Mountain View Corridor.
“We told them that we should have priority over people who aren't even there,” said Amy Hernandez, who lives in the Oquirrh Shadows neighborhood in the northwest quadrant of West Jordan, 7000 South between Airport No. 2 and Mountain View Corridor.
Initial options would have required them to leave Sunset Ridge Middle, drive past West Hills Middle to get to Joel P Jensen.
The neighborhood presented a united front at several open houses held throughout the process. Deborah Ivie became a spokesperson for the area. She collected extensive research to provide the board with statistics showing options A and B clumped low-income families into just a few schools.
Ivie said the initial information and survey was not available in Spanish, causing many in her neighborhood to be upset with the whole process.
“A lot of the residents in our neighborhood did not take the survey or had no clue about the changes,” said Hernandez.
A group of dedicated parents volunteered to canvas the neighborhood to spread information. Ultimately, they collected 1,300 signatures on a petition to protest the proposed option C boundary choice.
They persisted in keeping board members aware of their issues.
“We bombarded the school board with phone calls, letters and emails,” said Hernandez. “The president of the school board stated that our neighborhood was a force to be reckoned with, that we care about our kids and the kids in this neighborhood.”
Ivie said the turning point came when she met personally with Janice Voorhies, board president.
“She took the time to understand our unique circumstances,” said Ivie.
When the final boundaries were announced, their hard work had paid off.
“The look on my son's face when I told him that he gets to go to West Hills with all of his friends—it was amazing,” said Hernandez. “I can't even describe it. He is so happy.”
The board tried to limit the number of students required to change schools, cross busy roads and be bused to schools farther away.
Many parents balked at changes that would require their kids to be bused to a new school when they already attended a school within walking distance.
This was one of the issues for the neighborhood known as the Welby Triangle, between Old Bingham Highway and the South Jordan boundary between 4000 South and 4800 West. These families were unhappy with options A and B that would bus their kids to Joel P Jensen when they could walk to Elk Ridge as they were already doing.
Neighbors united to propose an alternative option.
“We met beforehand so we were on the same page,” said Robin Huling. “I sent out what concerns we had to the neighbors so they also could have input.”
Their feedback, presented to the board at the Oct. 23 open house, became option C, and ultimately what the board decided.
Unifying the neighborhood was their goal. New limits on permits will also reduce the number of kids attending other schools.
Huling, whose four children attend Welby Elementary on permit while the majority of their neighbors attend Terra Linda Elementary, believes permits are “very disruptive as a whole” to neighborhoods, as they don’t support “neighborhood comradery.” Families in the Welby Triangle have used permits as the answer to boundary schools that don’t align with a feeder system. Huling said this makes it difficult for kids to form lasting friendships with their peers when they have to start over with a new group every few years.
“Those friends become more important as they attend middle school and high school, and it’s important they stay together,” said Huling.
Along with the frustration they felt at times, parents ultimately felt good about their role in this historic decision.
“I’m so happy that as a community we came together so well to fight for our kids and others’ kids,” said Rachel Miller, who lives with her five children in the Oquirrh Shadows area. “I loved being a part of a great change and making new friends in the process.”
Her advice to other communities: “If you don’t like something, make that effort to rally your neighbors and make a difference.”