Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
WEST JORDAN — The Jordan School District is once again being called to task over its management of rapid student growth.
School officials had hoped to be planning the construction of 11 new schools. But after the failure of a $495 million bond election, the district is now considering year-round elementary schools and a series of boundary changes to reallocate the swelling student body.
Four boundary change proposals have been posted on the district's website, affecting as many as 15 elementary and middle schools, and residents are encouraged to share their preferences in an online survey.
But many families feel slighted by the district's plans and say the problems of high-growth areas are being thrust onto their established neighborhoods.
"We’re not the problem," said Jamie Larsen, one of the organizers behind a community meeting held Monday. "Why are you making (high-growth areas) more comfortable than us? And why are you kicking us out of our school?"
Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said school officials are thrilled that residents are talking about the boundary changes and getting engaged in the process. She also emphasized that all of the boundary change options are merely proposals that the school board will discuss and consider prior to any decision.
"We’re sensitive to the fact that it will impact families," Riesgraf said. "It will impact neighborhoods, so if people can get together and come up with other solutions that may have less of an impact that would be potentially viable, we want to hear from them."
Larsen said she understands that the district has to make decisions that benefit the largest number of people and that no boundary change is likely to please everyone.
But she added that many residents have the opportunity to voice their opinion on several options, whereas the families in her neighborhood — in the area of 9000 South and Bangerter Highway — face the same result with all of the district's proposed boundary changes.
"In all four options, we’re going to Terra Linda Elementary," she said. "We’re willing to accept whatever the district decides is best for the district. But we feel like they didn’t even give us a choice, and that’s what is different about our neighborhood."
Roughly 100 people, including members of the Jordan School Board, attended Monday's community meeting, which included a presentation on the four boundary options and an opportunity for residents to voice their concerns.
Several neighborhoods and schools were represented, and parents took issue with the potential for elementary schools to be split between middle schools, neighborhoods to be split between elementary schools, and the burden of new growth being placed on previously landlocked portions of the district.
Jolynne Alger, a member of the Eastlake Elementary School Community Council, objected to the claim that boundary changes are being proposed to make west-side schools "more comfortable."
Alger said her children's school, located in the Daybreak area of South Jordan, has a dozen portable classrooms surrounding the school and utilizes the teacher's lounge as classroom space.
"The room that we have to move kids is in the northeast part of our district. That is a hard fact," she said. "As I look around the whole district, the options are severe. No one in this district is going to be comfortable at this moment."
Leesa Leonard, whose children are among the roughly 1,400 students at Eastlake Elementary, described the options proposed by the district as challenging but necessary. She said many parents on the district's east side don't recognize the overcrowding faced by the high-growth areas.
"We can't wait to make a choice," she said. "My children need to go somewhere next year."
Larsen said the goal of the community meeting was to receive feedback and ultimately create alternate boundary proposals to present to the district.
Instead of the district's current proposals, which divide Elk Meadows Elementary and Terra Linda Elementary along city lines, Larsen said she'd prefer a boundary that runs along a major road, such as nearby 9000 South.
"They shouldn’t cut through people’s backyards and separate houses that are right next to each other into different schools," she said. "(The district is) asking our kids to cross over 90th South and a TRAX line and go to a school that’s in an industrial area when we're within walking distance to the school that we’ve been going to."
Larsen said organizers are also interested in asking the district to put off boundary changes for one year to allow for more discussion with community groups.
"Our first focus is our neighborhood," she said. "We’d like to have time to work together and come up with a solution that will help with this growing problem in Jordan School District."
Riesgraf said any decision on boundary changes, including whether to postpone them for a year, would be up to the Jordan School Board. But she added that many of the district's schools are currently dealing with overcrowding.
"There are schools that really do need some relief, and that’s why you propose boundary changes," she said. "Even if the bond had passed, we would have proposed some boundary changes and likely would have had to move forward with some boundary changes. Now we’re just having to consider more than we would have if the bond had passed."
Riesgraf reiterated that residents are encouraged to review the boundary proposals on the district's website and participate in the online survey. She also said the district will host a series of open house meetings to receive feedback from community members beginning the week of Jan. 6.
The next Jordan School Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28.
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