PROVO — Four of seven Provo School Board members are up for election this year, which sparked a few questions in City Hall about the redistricting process that is required every 10 years.
The city's Municipal Council is charged with setting its own district boundaries and the boundaries for the city's school district. The council must decide whether to change district boundaries immediately — two years ahead of schedule — so school board candidates can know if their districts will remain the same. Or wait and let the election process play out and decide on any boundary changes after new board members are in place.
Candidates who plan to run for school board must file with the County Elections Office between March 9-15. The city and school district favor redistricting sooner than later, which puts the process on a fast track to be ahead of the candidate-filing window. The current district boundaries were identified in 2003 and went into effect in 2004.
The city has already had considerable public input, inviting residents to use a mapping program at redistricting.provo.org to make their own redistricting proposal. Some 32 plans were submitted by the input deadline, which was Sunday.
Three Municipal Council members assigned to a redistricting committee reviewed all of the proposals on the table Monday morning. "For the most part they want to proceed and wrap it up," said Matthew Taylor, the Municipal Council's executive director, adding that their work is not set in stone. "They haven't bound themselves."
The city plans to present four primary redistricting maps to the School Board on Tuesday at its 5 p.m. study session, at 280 W. 940 North, and then describe the redistricting process to residents at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Municipal Council Chambers in the City Center at 351 W. Center.
City spokeswoman Helen Anderson said Provo Mayor John Curtis will likely use the Wednesday meeting to see whether there is a majority opinion about a redistricting plan, or whether more time is needed.
School board member Richard Sheffield said he has seen some of the proposals submitted online. "They are a great tool to sort of explore what the possibilities are."
Several challenges in the nonpartisan process include keeping neighborhoods and school boundaries intact within districts "where the statutory requirement is to balance out the population," Sheffield said.
Achieving neighborhood and school-boundary equity becomes even more difficult in the population-driven redistricting process where there are seven board districts but only two high schools. "There is more room for growth on the city's west side," Sheffield said. But an abundance of starter homes there "hasn't produced as many high school students as we thought it would."
If the accelerated redistricting process continues after the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings, the Municipal Council is scheduled to review feedback on Feb. 21 and then make a final decision on boundaries at 7 p.m. Feb. 28. Anderson said the final meeting would also include a public hearing.
A second redistricting process to review Municipal Council boundaries will come later, Anderson said.
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