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South Jordan mayor says idea to split Jordan School District 'losing momentum'

Published: Monday, March 10 2014 11:22 p.m. MDT

The Jordan School Board and South Jordan city officials met Monday to question whether options to split the school district should be investigated, but the discussion never got that far.

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SOUTH JORDAN — The Jordan School Board and South Jordan city officials met Monday to question whether options to split the school district should be investigated, but the discussion never got that far.

South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord said he called the meeting to establish communication between the Jordan School Board and city officials about the idea, but the nearly three-hour discussion stalled on concerns over local development, criticism of some of the board's past decisions and the need to improve communication.

"I think support for the split is losing momentum," Alvord acknowledged during a recess.

The meeting instead focused on healing old wounds, the mayor said. Parties in both camps expressed a desire to communicate more openly in the future, specifically regarding development proposals.

In the few minutes the group directly addressed ideas about a split, South Jordan City Councilman Mark Seethaler asked board members what impacts would not be measured should the city study the economic feasibility of a split.

Superintendent Patrice Johnson responded that during the uncertain year when the Canyons School District split itself off from Jordan, test scores and achievement dropped as schools "hunkered down" and waited to see what would happen.

City council members also questioned if there are studies revealing when school districts might be too big or too small, and whether smaller school districts turn out higher test scores.

Johnson answered that a smaller district would not be able to support the same number of advanced placement classes, dual-immersion schools or special programs that the Jordan School District currently offers.

When Alvord questioned if a smaller district would have more money per student, he was met by a chorus of "no."

Early in the meeting, Jordan District business manager Burke Jolley gave a presentation on the district's budgetary scorecard, applauding the amount that has been set aside in a "rainy day fund" and to pay out previously offered retiree benefits.

When Canyons split from the Jordan School District, Jolley said Jordan was left with "60 percent of the students and 40 percent of the wealth."

Jordan School District spent $5,645 per student in the last fiscal year, while its "stepbrother," the Canyons School District, spent $6,821 per student, Jolley reported.

After tense debate, the meeting finished with a closed session addressing "real estate purchases," which excluded the district's superintendent and business manager, as well as the South Jordan's city manager and attorney.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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