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The City Journals

South Jordan parents voice concerns over school boundary change

Nov 26, 2018 01:35PM ● By Julie Slama

Monte Vista parent Leesa Leonard addresses the Jordan Board of Education with her neighborhood concerns over earlier boundary options. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

There were school boundary options A and B and from those, C was created. But it was option D that was presented and approved Nov. 13 by the Jordan School Board. That fourth and final option, will go in effect for the 2019-20 school year.

“I do not support option D,” Eastlake parent Zakia Richardson said.  “The logic is incredibly flawed. Option D does not remove enough (students). It keeps the areas with the highest growth rate and the highest student yield in the district of Eastlake. So next year, I believe Eastlake will be overcrowded again. None of the options considered moving students East of 4000 (West), who life furthest from the school.”

She said that four buses currently pick up schoolchildren from neighborhoods east of 4000 to take them to Eastlake Elementary. Next year, under option D, Richardson said that the four buses will continue the same route to Eastlake while approximately 111 students who live closest to the school, will walk 1.4 miles to Daybreak Elementary.

However, she knows that the Board’s decision is final.

“There are great families on both sides of 4000 prepared to honor any Jordan School District board decision that gives a long-term solution to the overcrowding at Eastlake,” Richardson said.

Option D was presented from more than 7,000 survey responses and more than 2,900 additional comments after boundary option C was presented Oct. 24.  

For eight hours that day, after spending time the night before expressing concerns to the Jordan Board of Education, parent Jodee Packer listened as the Board worked from option B of the proposed boundary changes to formulate option C.

“I wanted to be sure what I asked for was shared and heard,” Packer said. “For the most part, I’m happier with option C.”

Packer, who has spent 16 years volunteering in her children’s schools of Monte Vista Elementary, South Jordan Middle School and Bingham High, said she has an investment in her neighborhood schools.

“I was there to fight for our elementary – not just for the school and the education they receive there, but literally, because the earlier options split our community in half and that wasn’t OK,” said the current Bingham High PTA vice president. “We’re talking about 14 homes, six of them, the homeowners grew up in the houses and bought them from their parents so their kids could be raised with the same traditions they experienced.”

In another option, Packer said that about 32 students were identified to leave the school, but after allowing those who study Chinese with dual immersion to permit back to the school, only six students were identified to leave.

“That’s what made me so passionate about it. We need to look at specifics and know what’s best for our communities,” she said.

Monte Vista parent Leesa Leonard said that option C was more viable for her neighborhood.

“The Board listened and they’ve left us united as a neighborhood,” she said, adding that her community has moved several times in the past decade. “It didn’t make sense that we’d randomly be picked to move when we can walk one-half mile to Monte Vista. People bought houses to have their children attend this school. They want their children to grow up to attend Bingham High; it’s a great school for test scores, sports and traditions. This is a ‘true blue’ community.”

Monte Vista was one of the schools that had several parents express concern about the proposed boundary change options at the Board meeting Oct. 23. The two earlier proposals of option A and B allowed parents to voice their opinions through a survey as well as the public forum. Afterward, the Board met again to create option C, which also gave parents time to study and complete a survey that ultimately resulted in option D.

Board member Tracy Miller said before the Nov. 13 vote that the board realized the earlier options would just be shifting the overcrowding from one school to another. Instead, they’ll look into other options — “add on to a school, move existing programs, build a new school, or do what we need to help where the growth is,” she said.

That doesn’t mean installing additional portables. Monte Vista already has 11. Eastlake, which has an agreement with the Daybreak community, is limited by a contract with the Daybreak community to four portables, and Jordan Ridge, is at six, which “the Board feels is a good number,” Miller said.

Eastlake, according Richardson, has been overcrowded for numerous years.

“Once again, they’ve underestimated the projections of growth in our boundary,” she said before option C was announced. “They are miscalculated.”

She estimated about 100 kids will come to attend the school from east of 4000 West and another 20 will come from along “the Ridge.”

“There was an overcrowding problem last year, five years ago, eight years ago. We’re by far the most grossly overcrowded school and physically, we have no more space,” she said.

Last year, Principal Suzie Williams said the decision was made to turn a kiva into a classroom and a computer lab was turned into a classroom. Already, the stage is being used for art classes. This year, 36 students in the sixth-grade Chinese dual immersion class were combined into the former computer lab with both the English and Chinese teacher, as there were not enough classrooms.

“Is it ideal?” Williams asked. “Probably not, but it’s working and we’re OK.”

She said instead of an actual computer lab, mobile carts are moved from classroom to classroom, allowing students to still use the technology. Even with the sixth-grade class combined, she said class sizes are good, ranging from 22 in second grade to 29 in fifth grade. She also said that test scores on the standardized SAGE test, show students are 10 points ahead of grade level in language arts.

However, with a projected 120 more students in the area, Williams said that enclosing the additional two kivas will only provide space for 50 more kids. 

Richardson said that the school was built for 950 students, and now there will be 1,157 pupils with the projected growth.

“Growth is happening and we’ve proven their projections wrong before,” she said before option C was created. “We keep expanding. Our numbers won’t go down.”

Darrell Robinson said on his Facebook page that Jordan School District’s priorities are creating longer-lasting boundaries, allowing for expected growth, aligning feeder schools and avoiding crossing busy roads.

Additional parent concerns were taken by the Board Oct. 30 concerning the 240 permit students in addition to the accelerated, or ALPs, students who attend Jordan Ridge Elementary.

“There were parents with signs and people had concerns about the numbers of permit students,” Miller said. “It’s a really good school, with some of the highest test scores, so we have kids permitting to go there from all over the district.”

Jordan Ridge parent Candice Harding said that the school attracts good teachers as well as accelerated teachers.

“I’m OK with the ALPs students, but when I moved to South Jordan one year ago, I looked into schools where my children would attend and for them to consider cutting out the whole neighborhood and allowing permit students in, it’s really upsetting,” she said. “Option C keeps our neighborhood in the school boundaries, but we still need to be mindful of not allowing as many students to permit in who aren’t ALPs students.”

Miller said there are multiple reasons families permit into Jordan Ridge.

Jill Morely, said that under the current proposal, her children, as well as others in the neighborhood, would be sent to their boundary school, Westville, and not their neighborhood school of Jordan Ridge.

“We love walking and scootering to school every day,” she said, adding that if her children were to attend Westville, she wouldn’t allow them to walk and cross the traffic on 9000 South. “We will have to apply for permits every year for them to attend a school that is closer. If our neighborhood kids attend Westville, they may not be able to participate in afterschool activities because they may have to catch a bus.”

Miller said that the Board has proposed new procedures for permit students and it would be up to the principal and school feeder administrator to follow those guidelines and limit students to ensure proper room for projected enrollments.

Neighborhood growth in the South Jordan Elementary community continues to be a challenge to project, she said. 

“While farms are sold off, we get more houses built on that property and get segments at a time, so it’s just pockets of growth, nothing like we can see out west and predict,” Miller said, adding that “temporarily – one or two years - until we have the way to meet the needs” the school will remain year-round.

While Elk Meadows became a traditional school two years ago, Principal Aaron Ichimura said that he hopes his community will remain positive.

“I don’t want to lose any student in a perfect world, just add numbers if that’s the way the board decides,” he said early on in the boundary process. “With the projected enrollment, we would have sufficient space for our students.”