Jordan School Board considering $500 million bond for new buildings, renovations

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1 2013 5:10 p.m. MDT

There are no walls separating the library from the hallways in West Jordan Elementary School in West Jordan on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. The Jordan School District is asking for a $501 million bond for schools. If the district gets it, West Jordan Elementary will be torn down and rebuilt.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — The Jordan School Board will soon decide whether to advance a five-year, $500 million bond to voters.

Board members reviewed a tentative proposal this week that calls for raising a half-billion dollars through taxpayer-supported bonding to construct 11 new schools and two replacement schools and make roughly $150 million in renovations to existing facilities.

The bond would cost taxpayers between $8 and $10 per month for every $100,000 of assessed property value, district spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said. For the average Jordan District home valued at just less than $250,000, residents would see a monthly cost of around $20, or a 30 percent increase on their current school district property tax.

"When you break it down per day, you’re looking at less than that can of Coke you buy a day or that candy bar you buy every day," Riesgraf said. "They’re not going to see a significant increase."

Without the bond, Riesgraf said, the district would be forced to consider unpopular housing alternatives, such as increased portable classrooms, pocket busing, year-round schooling or potentially the use of double sessions in which classes are held from 6 a.m. to noon and again from noon to 6 p.m.

"It’s up to our patrons, our stakeholders, what they want and how they want their children housed and how they think that will affect their education," Riesgraf said. "We’re still going to educate them. We’re going to give them the best we’ve got, but it gets challenging for everyone."

The tentative proposal calls for the construction of eight elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school; a new transportation facility; and replacements for the Jordan Applied Technology Center in Sandy, West Jordan Elementary and West Jordan Middle School.

The proposal also calls for renovations at 25 district schools, including upgraded safety features to bring buildings up to code and improved fire sprinkling systems.

"Those are things we cannot ignore," Riesgraf said. "In forming the priorities for bonding, the No. 1 thing is safety for students."

In June, district officials conducted a survey of area residents to gauge interest in a number of options to address the growing student population. Of the residents who responded to that survey, 80 percent indicated support for a $520 million bond for new buildings, Riesgraf said.

Suzanne Atencio, a parent of three Jordan School District students and former PTA president at West Jordan Middle School, said she supports a bond despite the increased property taxes her family would pay.

"I don’t know the specifics, but it seems like it doesn’t go up all that much per year for the benefit we would get from having a safe school, for example," she said.

Atencio gave the example of her child's school, West Jordan Middle School, which under the proposal would be replaced with a new facility. The school does not have air conditioning, she said, and there are several other issues related to the facility's age.

"By the time they get to (replacing the school), I probably won’t have children there, but it would be a benefit for everybody," Atencio said.

The proposal also calls for a replacement to West Jordan Elementary School, which was built in 1982 under a modular design that features mostly open space, causing classroom disruption and making safety protocols such as lockdowns difficult.

The number of students in the Jordan School District is expected to double in the next two decades, and each year the district adds between 2,000 and 2,500 students — the equivalent of two elementary schools.

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