"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 9, 2019

Where to build an elementary school?

There could be some lively discussion this Tuesday on who needs an elementary school more: the West or Vineyard.  At Board Meeting for Tuesday, Sept 10, 2019, the ASD board has a discussion item: Plan for Phase IV Buildings.  You can find the agenda here. The enrollment numbers can be found on pages 208-209 of the meeting documents here.

The fly in the ointment is that in November, 2017, after the board decided to consolidate Hillcrest and Scera Park elementaries in Orem, the board voted to put a new elementary in Vineyard as part of Phase 4 of the existing bond.  At that time, I asked whether or not the numbers supported this, as it was a couple of years out.  I was told that, yes it did.  I apologize that I didn't stand up more forcefully against promising something so far out.  But, as the numbers appear right now, Vineyard is large, but there are options.  Here are the current enrollment numbers for elementaries with lots of students:

Brookhaven: 1346
Sage Hills: 1152Black Ridge: 1141
Vineyard: 1103
Dry Creek: 1053
Hidden Hollow: 999
Harvest: 984
Pony Express: 965

If you notice, with the exception of Vineyard, all these schools are out west.  So, here's the thing.  Vineyard is near Orem and here are some numbers from schools in Orem (which, granted, are often, if not always, smaller than the ones out west).

Geneva: 305
Suncrest: 395
Aspen: 404Westmore: 463
Windsor: 570
Bonneville: 579

So, Vineyard's high numbers could be offset by changing the boundaries and moving some of the kids in Vineyard to surrounding schools.  There are options for Vineyard.  The other schools out west have no options for moving kids around because all their surrounding schools are also really full.  It seems like a no-brainer to me for the board to simply change the decision we made in 2017 (which is completely legal), and designate two new elementary schools out west to be the final elementaries built with the current bond.  Another bond is in the planning stages for the 2020 ballot.  But even if that passes, it would take an allocation from the board in 2021, and so, best case, another elementary couldn't be completed until probably 2022.  That means the west would continue to grow for 2.5 more years without any options other than the one elementary (which is definitely needed).  To me, it makes sense to alleviate Vineyard by changing boundaries and building 2 new elementaries out west.

Why would this not be self-evident?  Well, because Orem residents weren't pleased with the Hillcrest/Scera Park consolidation and wanted a promise on the Vineyard school.  The argument could be made that the board is going back on a promise made to those residents.  True, except the majority of the board has changed from 2017.  There are only 3 board members currently on the board who were there in 2017.  Plus, the reason why you have a board that makes decisions on an on-going basis is so they can address things, as they come up.  The reason why the 2 elementary schools were not named in the original bond proposal was because it's hard to project things more than a year or so out.  My "spidey-sense" should have gone off in 2017 to think that it would be at least 2 more years before these elementaries would break ground.  I should have voted no.  The other rumor is that if Vineyard isn't named as one of the elementaries on this final phase of the bond, then the Orem City Council might choose to break off and form their own school district.  In my opinion, if they want the higher tax burden of doing this in order to keep smaller, neighborhood schools, I'm in favor of them deciding to do whatever makes sense for them. And if not, then the board needs to stand by the numbers and the logistics as they are today, and not what we thought they'd be two years ago.

Please feel free to come to the board meeting at the District Office in AF at 6pm on Tuesday.  Public comments are always welcome.  You just have to sign up beforehand.