Alpine School District moves toward closing 5 elementary schools
The Alpine School District Board of Education could close five elementary schools after this current school year. Board members voted 6 to 1 during their Feb. 28 meeting to move a proposal to close Lehi, Valley View, Lindon, Windsor and Sharon elementaries forward to a “formal study” so the board can gather public feedback.
Board members and staff blamed the potential closures on uneven growth across the district, seismically unsafe buildings and the failure of a $595 million bond question during the last election.
On Dec. 8, district administration and board members sent a letter to parents telling them that because the proposed bond failed, they would start a boundary study to look at ways to address changing enrollment numbers and aging buildings.
Spokesperson David Stephenson said the study lasted until mid-February and it was presented to the board on Feb. 14.
“I anticipate that we'll make some tweaks and changes based on some of that feedback,” Stephenson said.
State code requires local school boards to hold public hearings before closing a school or changing a boundary. After gathering that feedback, Stephenson anticipates there will be some tweaks to the plan, but believes there’s a strong likelihood the board will close the doors on the five schools.
“They are very old schools. They have unreinforced masonry, they're declining in enrollment in most of those schools and neighboring schools have space,” he said. “As the board pondered this and considered the safety of students and the fact that we have space in neighboring schools, it became apparent that this is kind of a moral obligation.”
The boundary study recommended closing the schools after the 2024-2025 school year, but during the Feb. 28 meeting board members were in favor of closing them after the current school year.
Stephenson isn’t sure when the board will take a final vote, but said the district will have a better timeline at the April 18 board meeting.
Even if the $595 million bond had passed, Stephenson said the district still would have had to close some schools, but not as many. He said part of the bond would have gone to address seismic concerns.
The Alpine School District isn’t the only district dealing with school closures.
The Granite School District Board of Education voted in December to close three elementary schools and signaled that more will likely be in the district’s future. The Salt Lake City School District is currently studying possible closures after a state audit criticized the district for not closing schools despite declining enrollment. And a December report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute projected that Utah’s school-age population will be the slowest-growing age group in the state.
Some community members have shared concerns online about the proposal and others are upset at the thought of losing their neighborhood school. Abbey Franklin, whose son attends Lehi Elementary, has concerns about the proposed closures. Franklin was at a Lehi Elementary PTA meeting on Monday and estimates about 30 were in attendance.
“Nobody was happy about the proposal; however, there were some different perspectives regarding how to address our concerns,” Franklin told KUER via text message.
If the district were to close the school this year, she thinks that doesn’t give families and staff enough planning time. Franklin said she spoke with some community members who want Lehi Elementary to be kept open until the district builds a new school in the area.
Some parents, though, are optimistic about the district proposal.
Angie Weiler has two kids at Valley View Elementary and is the school’s PTA president. She first heard about the proposal to close Valley View about a week ago and watched the Feb. 28 board meeting online. Weiler said Valley View is a big part of the community and because her kids started at the school, she’d be sad to see it go.
But Weiler said it would ultimately be for the best to close Valley View.
“It’s not as safe as it could or should be.”
If it closed, Wiler’s kids would start attending Central Elementary, according to the current proposal. She thinks her kids would have good opportunities at Central, which was recently rebuilt.
Wiler especially likes that the proposal would keep all of the Valley View students together.
“We're a tight little community, and so we're all grateful that we're sticking together. So I think the majority of people view it as a good thing or at least like an OK thing.”