OREM The City Council voted Tuesday night not to fast-track a proposed split from the Alpine School District.
While the council vote to study the feasibility of Orem forming its own school district was unanimous, council members said it needs a lot more information on costs, the impact on teachers and other factors before moving forward on the proposal that was made possible by a new law passed this year by the Legislature.
Alpine is the third largest school district in the state, covering all of Utah County from north of Provo.
"I'm going to vote in favor of this, because I don't think there's anything too dangerous about talking about it," said Councilman Dean Dickerson during the discussion. "I think we need to look at the facts. I think the facts will help the residents of Orem make an intelligent decision."
The vote came after 45 minutes of community debate. Residents were split down the middle of the room literally with a handful of those opposed to conducting the study on one side and a line of those in favor spilling out council chamber doors on the other side.
"I am pleased with the decision to go forward with the study," said Orem resident Lonnie Iverson, who favors researching the possibilities. "I'm not stupid enough to say that we should do this no matter what. If issues come up that make this unreasonable, then we'll just have to swallow our pride, but Alpine has been too unresponsive to our needs to not look at it."
Other community members were less pleased.
"I'm a product of the Alpine School District, and there were problems with it, but it doesn't seem like it's anything that dividing the school district would solve," said Ryan Hess, who graduated from high school last year. "It would take time and money to create a new district, whereas we could use that time and money to improve the district we have now."
City council members from both Cedar Hills and Lindon were present at the meeting and asked for their cities also be considered for inclusion in the proposed new district. Orem council members shied away from making any commitments just yet.
The study will focus initially on Orem alone, although the motion made allowances for neighboring cities to be included if they express interest soon.
"I think it needs to be clear that no doors have been shut," Mayor Jerry Washburn said. "This motion allows the (study) consultant to look at different combinations to see what makes sense and what does not make sense. But by including a community in the study, it does not guarantee that the city will be included in the new district if we decide to go forward."
The idea to create a new district was brought to the council in early May by residents wielding a petition containing 1,000 signatures.
The new law allows large cities to create a new school district if a study finds a city school district feasible.It is possible the Orem issue could appear on November's ballot, though no specific time frame for completing the study has been set.