Alpine School District hears first public comments on potential split option


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AMERICAN FORK — The Alpine School District got a first taste of what residents think of a plan to potentially ask voters to split the school district into two. In a public hearing Tuesday, the first of two scheduled on the topic, the school board heard from around 20 citizens, parents and teachers.

The hearing comes after months of the school board weighing the district's future.

First, a study identified several possible options for the Alpine School District as it continues to grow. During their May 14 meeting, board members settled on a two-way split as the preferred plan that people could potentially vote on in November.

However, the vote was nearly split, 4-3, in favor of the two-way reconfiguration.

Other board members favored a three-way redistricting, which is in line with the option several cities in the school district announced they also want — signing interlocal agreements vowing to explore forming their own districts.

With the two-way split solidified as the preferred option, the board then opened a 45-day public comment period on May 28.

Tuesday's hearing allowed citizens to weigh in on the plan. Some said they approve of a two-way split; others said they want the district split into three or they want to keep the district as one.

Parents talked about concerns with funding, loss of programs and wondering if a large district is truly benefiting children. There was also a lot of talk about feeling a disconnect between the east side and the west side of the district.

Saratoga Springs parent Wendy Jensen said the Alpine School District is too big and she wants to see a three-way split.

"We don't have enough room in our schools. Our children in the west have experienced a serious imbalance of programs," she said. "Growth is not being addressed fast enough, and the west side has been underrepresented ... for years. That will continue unless we split."

Pleasant Grove resident John Gadd said he believed there would be less bureaucracy and red tape if the district split into smaller districts and the school boards would be more responsive to issues.

"The reality is, with smaller school districts, students, families, teachers, staff and taxpayers can all be better off," he said.

Pleasant Grove High School teacher Ryan Newman said he supported a no-split or two-way split, and he said there's a heightened sense of alarm amongst teachers about a three-way split. He talked about teacher contracts and what would happen if the district was reconfigured.

"Alpine School District being large is considered kind of a safe harbor for teachers in the state," he said, of the upside he feels with it being one district. "Teachers want to come here. They feel like there's a good contract."

School district parent Shelly Howard echoed that sentiment, saying she's spoken to teachers about the possible split. She also expressed concerns that taxes would increase and teachers would not be paid more in smaller, separate districts.

"The bottom line is money, that's what it's all about. And by splitting, I don't see that there will be more money," she said.

The school board listened to the comments and is set to hear more comments at the second of two hearings on June 25 at Lake Mountain Middle School in Saratoga Springs at 6:10 p.m.

They are also taking public comments online.

The 45-day public comment window closes on July 12.

On July 16, the Alpine School District Board of Education is set to meet to decide whether or not they'll ask voters this fall to decide on a reconfiguration.

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Lauren Steinbrecher
Lauren Steinbrecher is an Emmy award-winning reporter and multimedia journalist who joined KSL in December 2021.

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