The Alpine (Utah) School Board has voted unanimously to combine two elementary schools in Orem—a decision that has led opponents to consider splitting away from the district.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the decision to merge Hillcrest and Scera Park elementary schools brought relief to some, but others felt the district had ignored their concerns about the move.
Frustrations over the plan, which calls for the eventual closure of Hillcrest, have run so high that some parents say they will pursue a feasibility study to see if breaking away from the Alpine district would be viable for Orem and other surrounding cities.
Board members say seismic safety concerns, low enrollment, tight budgets and the short distance between the two schools drove their approval of the consolidation.
The plan will merge Hillcrest and Scera Park into one new school that would open in the 2019-2020 school year on what is now Scera Park’s campus. The facility hold between 750 and 800 students. Hillcrest will be closed and torn down once the new school’s opens. Combining the two schools could save about $1.7 million annually, administrators say.
Combining Hillcrest and Scera Park is part of a larger plan to address declining student enrollment in Orem, aging buildings and limited finances. Additional moves being considered by the school board could affect several more elementary schools, says assistant superintendent John Patten.
JoDee Sundberg, a school board member from Orem, says she had agonized over what was best for Orem students. But seeing new learning opportunities available to students in growing areas of Alpine School District convinced her that combining Hillcrest and Scera Park was the best option.
But for many parents fighting the plan, the board's vote seemed to confirm their view that the needs of the diverse cities within the sprawling Alpine district are not being met.
Parents and citizens opposed to consolidation have met with attorneys, members of the Orem City Council and state legislators about a study that looks at the feasibility of Orem pulling out of the larger school system. Splitting from Alpine isn’t a new iea. About a decade ago, city officials looked at creating a district apart from Alpine, but it was defeated in a 4-3 city council vote.
Utah law provides for several ways to create a new school district. An existing district’s school board can vote to split; a municipality within a district can vote put a question before voters; or citizens can petition for a split to be placed before voters by collecting a certain percentage of registered voter signatures.