Bill could address major concern of Orem splitting from Alpine School District

While many issues have been raised by many voices regarding Orem forming its own school district, state Sen. Keith Grover plans to propose legislation that would address at least one of the concerns surrounding a split: What happens to students and families in Vineyard and Lindon?

While many issues have been raised by many voices regarding Orem forming its own school district, state Sen. Keith Grover plans to propose legislation that would address at least one of the concerns surrounding a split: What happens to students and families in Vineyard and Lindon? (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

OREM — Perhaps no issue in Utah County is currently more contentious than Orem's proposed split from the Alpine School District.

The Orem City Council voted 4-3 in August to place the issue on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election, giving Orem voters the chance to split and form their own school district or to continue as part of Alpine School District.

While many issues have been raised by many voices, Sen. Keith Grover, R-Provo, said he plans to introduce legislation that would address at least one of the concerns surrounding a split: What happens to students and families in Vineyard and Lindon?

Vineyard and Lindon both have schools in the Alpine School District that would be impacted by a potential split, yet the vote for Orem to form its own district won't be on the ballot for residents of those cities.

"If this goes through, they just get to deal with it," said Julie Walker, Orem Council PTA president.

Grover's bill would make it so that if the district lines are drawn in a way that puts a student — like one from Lindon or Vineyard — in a district different than where they live, they will be able to continue attending the school that they had been attending prior to any split that may happen.

"This bill will seek to clarify that, of course, those students will be able to continue to attend the schools they've been attending," Grover said. "We do not want to have any type of disruption to their education. That should be very, very seamless."

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He added that this bill is "mostly bureaucratic" and involves moving tax money to make sure that the schools in question are funded to the level they should be.

Orem Mayor Dave Young is a proponent of both a split from Alpine School District as well as Grover's potential bill.

"We must do a better job of educating our kids," Young said.

"Our children's class sizes are just too large (and) as a result, their test scores have been declining," he said. "Many of our schools have been ignored and as a result, are economically and seismically unsafe."

Still, concerns surrounding Orem forming its own school district remain.

Following the vote to put the split on November's ballot, the three PTA councils that represent Orem — Mountain View Council, Orem Council and Timpanogos Council — sent out a survey asking members if they would vote yes or no on Orem Proposition 2, which proposes splitting Orem into its own school district.

The survey was sent to approximately 2,000 PTA members and 693 people responded. Of those 693 PTA members who responded, 639 of them — 92.2% — indicated that they want Orem to remain a part of Alpine School District.

"The teachers do not want this and really, there's no one else to speak for the teachers but the PTA," Walker said.

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"There are many PTA members who are in favor of the Orem City School District and wanted to have a different vote than what the council voted to take as a stand for the PTA," said Orem City Councilwoman LaNae Millett, who is also a member of the Timpanogos High School PTA.

"I think that there are a lot of differing opinions on this issue and the PTA has a lot of different parents that are really looking forward to the Orem School District happening."

Millett added that she wants to see the PTA "stay neutral and not take a particular stand."

Walker said reasons for opposition include increased taxes for Orem residents — a point echoed by Orem City Councilman Tom Macdonald during last month's City Council meeting when the council voted to put the split on November's ballot — concerns over contracted services for special education as well as the scale of the split.

Walker said teachers and parents agree that Alpine School District is too big, but "breaking off one city is not going to fix any of the problems they think it's going to fix."

"We want a bigger split. We want more cities in our split so it's more equitable," Walker said.

"This bill, hopefully, we'll address some of those concerns to bring in those groups so they contain communities of interest that we're really interested in maintaining," Grover said.

Walker, along with LeAnn Wood, advocacy vice president for the Utah state PTA, said that as of Wednesday, they hadn't heard from Grover about his potential bill leading up to its announcement.

"You'd hope that when they move forward that they'd get input from those that are right intimately involved with things," Wood said.

Grover added that the bill is still very much in the preliminary stages.

"It will probably be about two, three more weeks. I got the language coming in, then look at it, cross reference it with code (and) get all eyes on it. It's a public bill," Grover said. "This is going to become a model for any district that wants to be formed in the future as well, so we want to get it as right as we can."

People can read more about the Timpanogos PTA's position here and explore information about Orem's proposed split from Alpine School District here.

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Utah K-12 educationUtah LegislatureUtahEducationUtah County
Logan Stefanich is a reporter with KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business and military news.

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