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South Jordan will not pursue school district split

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 8:50 p.m. MDT

The South Jordan City Council declined to take action on a school district split, allowing the deadline for placing the issue before voters to pass.

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SOUTH JORDAN — The proposed creation of a South Jordan School District was put to rest Tuesday as the City Council voted against placing a school district split on November's ballot.

The council previously accepted a written agreement joined by members of the Jordan Board of Education and neighboring city mayors that calls for greater collaboration and cooperation between school and city officials.

With the deadline for creating a ballot question falling on Tuesday, the council's unanimous vote effectively ends talk of a district split for at least one year.

"There’s no point in putting it on the ballot if the school district has signed the interlocal (agreement)," South Jordan City Councilman Chuck Newton said. "It was, in essence, a done deal."

The written agreement accepted by the various parties extends for one year, at which point officials have the option to renew, revise or allow it to expire.

Newton said the concerns that prompted talk of a district split are still facing the district, such as the need for new school buildings and the district's management of facilities and funding.

He said that with the signing of the interlocal agreement and the decision by city leaders to preserve the district intact, the real work will now begin.

"We haven’t solved anything. We’ve just started down the road of more problems," Newton said.

But he added that school officials have given their assurances that they will work to provide more transparency to city leaders and residents, and to work in collaboration for future construction and funding plans.

"If they can perform as they’ve said that they would, then as we revisit it, we’ll probably consider staying with the Jordan School District," Newton said.

Last week, South Jordan's City Council was presented with the results of a study commissioned to review the feasibility of forming a separate school district.

The study found that South Jordan residents would likely face a higher tax burden than if the city remained with the Jordan School District, and the new district would potentially have less revenue per student as a result of local, state and federal funding formulas.

School board member Kayleen Whitelock says she looks forward to developing a good relationship with the South Jordan City Council. She said students will be better served as city and school officials collaborate.

"There are areas that I think we can work together that could save taxpayers money by having some mixed-use ventures," Whitelock said.

The board is working toward creating a five-year plan for the district — one of the requests in the interlocal agreement — and is looking at cost-effective ways to address student enrollment growth and crowded classrooms, she said.

But the most pressing issue, Whitelock added, is ensuring that the district's children receive a high-quality education.

"I feel that our current board is wanting and willing to work with the cities, and I hope that they see that," she said. "I hope that they see from our actions that we’re serious and we do want to be partners and we want to do what’s best for students and taxpayers."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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