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Jordan School District says it needs 19 new schools in next decade

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Jun 18th, 2013 @ 10:01pm

HERRIMAN — Nail guns and wood saws can be heard all day long in Herriman's south side.

Home construction seems to be a booming business once again in this small city in the southern part of the Salt Lake valley.

"We're busy," said a man with a nail gun, making sure his 2x4's measured together perfectly.

A man with A wood saw would probably say something similar, too, but he couldn't any questions with the radio blaring country music on this hot June day.

Soon, residents will start moving into these homes. They will expect water hookups, sewer hookups, electricity hookups, a fire station nearby and police protection if needed. All of those services will be provided.

Residents will also want schools for their children to go to. However, no one is sure yet where those children will go to school.

"We're seeing an explosion of growth in this end of the valley," said Sandy Riesgraf, a spokesperson with the Jordan School District. "We've got cities growing at such a fast rate, and they continue to issue building permits. We support that, but you know, at the end of the day, we all have to be a part of the solution."

The solution to the problem isn't going to be easy.

The Jordan School District is expecting enrollment to increase by more than 29,000 students in the next 10 years for the communities it serves, which include Herriman, South Jordan, Riverton, Bluffdale and West Jordan.

To find room for all those students, Jordan Schools is saying it needs 19 new schools in the next decade.

We're seeing an explosion of growth in this end of the valley.

–Sandy Riesgraf

"We're growing right now by 2000-2500 students a year, which equates to two-and-a-half elementary schools a year," said Riesgraf. "We want to provide a quality education for our children, but we have to have some place to put them."

Recently, the district sent a card to residents in Jordan's boundaries informing them about an online survey.

The district wants residents to fill out that survey, because it makes them aware of the situation and attempts to ask for solutions.

"This is something of a shock factor for some people, but we need the people out here to know exactly what we're dealing with," said Riesgraf.

The survey includes options for what residents think about different proposals. For example, one way to pay for the new schools would be to take out bonds. The survey asks residents how they feel about 3-, 5- and 10-year bonds.

The 10-year bond has a price tag of roughly $970 million, though.

"This is a big financial decision," said Jolynne Alger, who has two children in the Jordan School District. "We just really need the community to get engaged because I think it needs to be a cooperative solution."

The elementary school Alger's children attend already has several portable classrooms. She feels building more isn't the solution.

"We just can't keep putting little band-aids on it. We're growing out of our band-aids," she said.

Riesgraf said the district has schools with 13 or 14 portables, although the Board of Education recommends six at the most. Everyone knows constructing more schools is going to cost a lot of money, though.

"I don't want to pay more taxes," Alger said, "and I'm really concerned about the financial burdens it places on people with different amounts of income."

The survey talks about other options, such as having children take buses to schools further away, having year-round classes or even doubling up on class sessions.

A meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at 7pm at Riverton High School, where the results of the survey will be announced. A decision is not expected at the time. Administrators just want people to know what others are thinking as the best option.

"This is reality," said Riesgraf, "and we want people to know that some very tough decisions are going to have to be made."

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