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Gov. Gary Herbert Touts Education Bills, Accomplishments At West Jordan School Groundbreaking

Photo of West Jordan school groundbreaking.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Gov. Gary Herbert and other state and school officials break ground Wednesday on a new elementary school in West Jordan. The new school will house 900 students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The Jordan School District is projected to gain almost 10,000 new students between 2016 and 2022, making it one of the fastest growing school districts in the state.

As that growth continues, the district is preparing for an influx of students in schools already at capacity or overcrowded.

Three of the district’s schools in West Jordan — Hayden Peak, Fox Hollow, Oakcrest elementaries — are overcrowded. Officials expect that to ease once the new elementary school is opened.

“They are not to the point that they don’t function very well but they’re to the point where if we add more students it’s going to impact the quality of education,” said school board member Janice Voorhies, who presides over the city’s westside where the new school is being built.

The schools are at 100% capacity and have portable classrooms, Voorhies said.

The new school will house 900 students from kindergarten through sixth grade and is expected to cost $18.3 million to build. With sweeping mountain views, it’s located on an empty parcel of land at 8860 South 6400 West bordered by housing. Voorhies expects more housing to fill out the area around the school once it’s completed next fall.

The new elementary school is one of seven new schools the district will open in the next two years.

Gov. Gary Herbert attended the Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony along with West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding, Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, and Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green. Herbert also used that time to ceremoniously sign five new education bills into law, including:

  • H.B. 120 School Safety Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful.Utah lawmakers budgeted $780,000 to create a State Safety and Support Program and hire a public safety liaison that will work with the State Board of Education. Among other provisions, the new law directs the board to establish policies and procedures for student resource officers.
  • H.B. 227 Computer Science Grant Act sponsored by Knotwell. With $3.15 million in funding, the law establishes the Computer Science for Utah Grant Program to pay for computer science education. The state’s funding will be matched by Utah tech companies that want to support the state’s goal of expanding computer science education.
  • H.B. 260 Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program sponsored by Owens, The law creates a $2 million scholarship program for disadvantaged college students attending a technical school or any Utah System of Higher Education institution. The program will pay schooling costs for those students for four semesters.
  • H.B. 373 Student Support Amendments by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. This law budgets more than $26 million to hire additional school counselors, social workers, psychologists and school nurses at Utah schools. It also creates a program that will train teachers to recognize trauma.
  • H.C.R. 14 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging High Expectations for Students with Disabilities sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy. The law encourages school districts and educators to challenge their students with special needs.

Along with signing the education bills, Herbert said lawmakers accomplished their goal of allocating $1 billion in ongoing money to public education in four years, not five years as they had anticipated.
Now, he’s hoping to improve the state’s graduation and student participation rates, especially for minority students. Utah’s K-12 education system ranks 20th in the nation in a comprehensive analysis by U.S. News and World Report. The state typically ranks at or near the bottom in per pupil funding.

“As we do that, we’ll have a labor force that the market is going to say, ‘You’ve got to be in Utah.’” Herbert said. “That’s what we are doing here with our goal of making Utah the best education system in America.”

Rocio is coming to KUER after spending most of her life under the blistering Las Vegas sun and later Phoenix. She earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno. She did brief stints at The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Public Radio. She enjoys wandering through life with her husband and their toy poodle.
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