Residents, school board wrestle over new Crimson school location

ST. GEORGE — At a special meeting of the Washington County School District Wednesday night, a passionate group of residents of the Washington Fields suburb of the county expressed concerns over the proposed Crimson High School-Middle School complex, with one woman saying she was worried for the safety of her children.

Approximately 20 people attended the meeting along with five board members and City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

Washington County School District Board President Laura Hesson addresses the audience at a board meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Washington County Board of Education President Laura Hesson addresses the board meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Board of Education President Laura Hesson, board Vice President Debbra Zockoll and board members LaRene Cox, Kelly Blake and Ralph Brooks convened the meeting specifically to address the concerns of the residents, many of whom have been outspoken in their unhappiness with how the district has been implementing their plans to build the proposed Crimson High School and Middle School complex.


Read More: New schools bound for Washington Fields; residents raise concerns


Resident Natalie Drake spoke first and expressed her frustration with what she said is the unwillingness of the school district to address the numerous concerns of those who live in the area where the school is going to be built.

I think this (meeting) is what should have been done before the bid was voted on,” Drake said.

At an earlier meeting with board members and with school district Superintendent Larry Bergeson, Drake said residents were given assurances that their questions and concerns would be answered by Tuesday.

However, by Tuesday, no answers had been given, and at a meeting that day the district voted to award the bid for the project. According to reports on the meeting, it got so heated that loud arguments broke out between board members and residents of Washington Fields, which prompted Wednesday’s meeting.

Washington Fields resident Natalie Drake discusses her concerns over the possible construction of the Crimson High School/Middle School complex with the Washington County School District Board in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Washington Fields resident Natalie Drake discusses her concerns over the possible construction of the Crimson High School/Middle School complex with the Washington County School District Board in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Drake had been interviewed by KUTV media following Tuesday’s heated meeting. Since then, she became the de facto spokesperson for the community.

Drake said she had been warned by others that since her children attended schools within the district, they would now be a target by administrators. If that were to happen, she said, she would not hesitate to enlist the help of her lawyer.

“No retaliation would ever happen to any kids,” she said of potential action the district might take. “That is not what we’re about at all, and I can assure you of that. That will not happen.”

St. George Mayor Jon Pike addresses the Washington County School District Board during a meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
St. George Mayor Jon Pike addresses the Washington County School District Board during a meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Drake and other residents then brought up what they felt were numerous code violations committed by the district, such as notifications of its plans to build.

The school district failed to notify St. George residents, Drake said.

Hesson said that since the boundaries of the proposed complex lie wholly within Washington City, there was no obligation on the part of the district to notify residents of St. George regardless of whether the roads leading to the school originated there.

Several of the residents in attendance expressed frustration that the property the district had previously planned to utilize for the complex — the east property they called it —had been removed from consideration, despite it being what they considered a more suitable location for the site.

Blake said the site the residents preferred was purchased 15 years ago and fit the model the district planned for at that time. That model was no longer in favor, and so the current property, the south property, is better suited for their plans.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Washington resident Natalie Drake discuss routing options for the proposed new school complex during a meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Washington resident Natalie Drake discuss routing options for the proposed new school complex during a meeting in St. George, Utah, May 11, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

The new school could actually fit on the original property if the design were revamped, Hesson said, but there are further issues with that parcel that made it unsuitable for the complex. She handed out an eight-point list of major problems associated with that property.

The problems listed included multiple issues with roads and traffic, the narrowness of the parcel, collapsible soil that would need extensive over-excavation that would cost $500,000 or more and drainage issues that would funnel an excessive amount of water into the nearby park.

Residents brought up other issues. Among concerns were whether or not the City of St. George was going to commit to building specific roads into the area, what the configuration of those roads would look like and whether the increase in traffic would remain safe for the children who lived in those neighborhoods.

Board members and residents pored over maps while discussing routes and ideas for roads.

Resident Richard Harter’s question for the school board elicited the strongest response from those in attendance. He said:

With all of this feedback and all of these discussions … the question is: to what extent is the board willing to be influenced by what has been said tonight and previous meetings in terms of shifting direction, and even to the point of halting — completely — further direction of school-site development of south property, and reconsidering placement of the schools on the east property?

The school board was asked to reconsider their motion to award the bid for development of the school, and after some debate a tentative agreement was reached for another meeting to be held on Monday.

As the meeting adjourned, most of those in attendance expressed gratitude for the board meeting specifically to address their concerns.

Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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