School District Asks for Public Input on Closures

School District Asks for Public Input on Closures

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Sandra Yi ReportingCould the state's largest school district close some of its schools? It's a possibility, and district officials want to know what you think about it. The first open house to discuss possible closures is tonight.

The district wants to know what you think, about plans to possibly shut down some schools. They say that could save the district money in areas where there's declining enrollment.

William Geist: "Do we want to keep our smaller schools and how much are we willing to pay for that?"

William Geist is holding his breath for the answer. Enrollment at his school, Mountview Elementary, has steadily declined over the past five years. This year there are about 400 kids there. That's 300 fewer than capacity.

William Geist: "As the homes get older and the parents become grandparents and I don't like to use pass away, should I say, pass on and move out, we're not seeing the influx."

It's a similar story at other east side schools in areas including Cottonwood Heights, Sandy and Midvale.

But west side schools are quickly expanding. It's an irony facing the state's largest school district.

Melinda Colton, Jordan School District: "Part of the district is growing at the seams. We're growing anywhere from a thousand to 1500 students a year, and then you've got pockets of the districts also that are declining."

That uneven growth may lead to some school closures. The district is looking at five options - from keeping all schools open, to shutting down 15 schools with the lowest enrollment.

Melinda Colton: "The board would never close 15 schools in this district, but could we close a couple and have some money that can be redirected to other areas? We could and that's something the board, to be responsible, has to study and has to discuss with the public."

The district estimates closing schools could save anywhere from 18 to 145 million dollars. That money could then be reallocated.

Principal William Geist knows his school could be a casualty of the situation, but he continues to look at the whole picture.

William Geist: "There's a little bit of envy on one side, but the realization that that's where the needs are, that's where the growth is, and we can't control the growth. We just have to adjust where we can."

The school board will hear recommendations in June. If the district decides to close a school, it wouldn't happen until the 2005-2006 school year.

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