Major boundary changes affect entire district
Nov 26, 2018 01:45PM
By Julie Slama
Concerns about Jordan Ridge Elementary students on school permits versus neighborhood kids who walk to school were brought up during the boundary discussions. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama and Jet Burnham
After weeks of receiving feedback through survey responses, letters, emails, Facebook threads, texts and phone calls, the Jordan Board of Education presented and approved the final boundary changes for the 2019-20 school year. Details can be found at boundary.jordandistrict.org.
Unlike previous options A, B and C that affected almost every school, the final decision, option D, announced Nov. 13, only adjusted the boundaries of 20 of the existing 36 elementary schools and most middle and high schools.
“Our choices have not been easy,” Board President Janice Voorhies said. “But they are the result of thousands of hours of analyzation and discussion by our staff and Board members in conjunction with the preferences and hopes of our local communities. It’s obvious that students matter to everyone involved.”
The last major upheaval related to boundaries was when the District split, forming Canyons School District in 2009.
Change was inevitable with the opening of five new schools next fall — elementary schools in Bluffdale and Herriman; a middle school in South Jordan and the rebuilding of West Jordan middle school; a new Herriman high school; and a Bluffdale middle school for 2020-2021 — to ease overcrowding in many rapidly-growing communities with the approval of the $245 million bond approved by voters in 2016.
“The Board is realigning almost all school boundaries to balance student numbers more equally and give our students opportunities for the best education possible,” Voorhies said.
The changes include Majestic Elementary closing its doors in the 2020-21 school year. The school building will be repurposed for other programs yet to be determined, said District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf.
“It was a surprise,” Majestic teacher Heather Reisch said. “There had been rumors that they were going to close Majestic because our enrollment is small. But they made improvements to our school two years ago so I thought with that huge investment that they would not be closing us.”
Every school in the District was evaluated during in the 18-month process. Concerns about safety, fiscal responsibility, aligning elementary through high school feeder systems, allowing for expected growth in school population and the desire to create longer-lasting boundaries were taken into account, Board member Darrell Robinson said.
Every step of the process was open to the public, who were invited to a series of open houses to express their concerns and opinions. Riesgraf said the Board was aware the changes were likely to be met with resistance.
“We know boundary alignment is difficult on parents, but before we ask for another bond, we need to be responsible and know if we are using every inch of school space we can — and we know that there is some space on the west side,” she said.
Boundary changes, initially drawn by Jordan District Planning Services and administration, were adjusted based on parent feedback and finalized by Board members.
“Everyone wants change to happen—to someone else’s kid,” said Robinson. “Most people don’t want to move.”
In the end, more students stayed where they are than were moved, Robinson said. But many parents reacted to earlier options A and B by uniting together to express concerns about school proximity, safety and alignment of feeder schools.
Many parents were concerned about overcrowded schools.
The board addressed this issue by approving new rules governing permits, (details can be found at boundary.jordandistrict.org.) Robinson said permits have been a problematic issue for many areas. Beginning Dec 1, students can request a permit to a school outside their boundary only if it is at less than 90 percent capacity.
Permits will be limited at schools like Jordan Ridge Elementary, which currently has a high number of permitted students. However, it is transitioning to a traditional calendar next year that should reduce its capacity by 25 percent.
Foothills Elementary in Riverton also will transition to traditional schedule while Blackridge Elementary in Herriman, Fox Hollow Elementary in West Jordan and South Jordan Elementary will remain on a year-round schedule.
South Jordan parents were concerned about overcrowding at Eastlake Elementary, where a kiva and a computer lab were turned into classrooms. 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. The school has four portables, which is the limit for schools in the Daybreak community.
Board member Tracy Miller said those and other concerns were reviewed in the 879 single-spaced pages of survey results as well as the public comments collected during the eight-hour open house on Oct. 23 to create option C, which pleased more Monte Vista parents.
“We looked at the long-term (enrolment) of Monte Vista and realized those options were just shifting students to another school that would result in overcrowding there so we decided that we’d need to look at 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, adding that Monte Vista already has 11 portable classrooms.
Growing communities on the west side were upset when overcrowding concerns led to initial options that rezoned children out of schools nearest their homes.
Deborah Ivie said with Option A, B and C, she would have had to drive past one middle school to get to the proposed boundary middle school.
“It would literally double the time to get to school for both junior high and high school,” she said.
She, like many parents, wasn’t anxious to have her kids attend a school that would be too far for them to be able to walk home from after-school activities.
Projected growth was a consideration that caused the board to implement a two-step boundary transition for three middle schools—Fort Herriman, Oquirrh Hills and South Hills. Boundaries were drawn for the 2019-20 school year and will be altered again for 2020-21.
In contrast, Oquirrh Elementary PTA president and school crossing guard Beth LeFevre was happy her West Jordan neighborhood was rezoned because her kids will move to a less-crowded school.
Ultimately, the Board tried, whenever possible, to limit the number of students who had to change schools, Robinson said.
Voorhies said the feedback from residents through each step of the process illustrated the support and care families have for their schools.
“I love that most communities love their current schools and care enough about their children’s education to become involved in the process,” she said. “It is very satisfying to see that citizens take their responsibilities seriously by seeing that their voices are heard.”