ST. GEORGE — A proposal is on the table for the Washington County School District to combine two elementary schools in order to increase enrollment and save taxpayer dollars. The proposal is one of the agenda items for discussion at the county Board of Education meeting Tuesday.
During its last meeting in November, the board discussed a proposal to combine students of Dixie Sun Elementary with Coral Cliffs Elementary. Steve Dunham, school district communication and public relations director, said the reason the district is considering this proposal is because enrollment has decreased “so much” at all elementary schools in the area.
“Right now, they’re all in the 400 range,” he said. “We really want schools at a capacity of 550. That’s what is ideal for us because that’s the point where it’s most efficient to operate the elementary schools.”
Under the proposal, the district would repurpose Dixie Sun Elementary and use the building to house several district programs, including a professional development center, according to a frequently asked questions link Dunham provided to St. George News.
The students from Dixie Sun Elementary would then attend Coral Cliffs Elementary, with the two schools being a little over a mile distance from each other. However, Dunham said that’s not the only proposal the school district is considering.
Other considerations include repurposing Coral Cliffs Elementary and sending the students to Dixie Sun Elementary, as well as performing a districtwide boundary change for all elementary schools.
Besides increasing enrollment, Dunham said the merger proposal is also in response to taxpayer feedback. During the midterm elections, the school district placed a proposal of $125 million general obligation bonds on the ballot, which ultimately passed. During the election period, he said the district received a lot of feedback saying something needs to be done to save taxpayer funds.
“If the schools were combined, whichever one they went with, that would save the district and taxpayers about 500,000 annually,” he said.
How many students this proposal would affect is unclear. The district was unable to provide exact enrollment data at the time of this report. However, according to the proposal’s FAQ, boundaries would be adjusted in order for Coral Cliffs Elementary to take in 400 or more students.
There is also concern about what would happen to Dixie Sun Elementary’s Dual Immersion program. Dunham said the program would still continue but at Coral Cliffs Elementary.
Although this may seem like a good option for taxpayers, Dunham said he understands this is a sensitive issue for the parents of the students who attend these two schools. Because it’s a sensitive subject, the district chose to first discuss it as an open proposal then meet with all the staff and parents of both schools.
“We know there’s a lot of emotion involved,” he said. “As a school district, we have to do what’s best for taxpayers, as well as what’s best for the students and parents in the community.”
The district is trying to balance those needs by having meetings with parents to discuss feedback on the proposal.
The proposal is still in its preliminary stages, Dunham said, so it’s undecided if the school board will move forward with it. If it does move forward, the board will have to decide if the proposal would go into effect fall of 2019 or fall of 2020. The decision is set to be made Jan. 1, 2019.
The proposal will also be discussed at the next board meeting Tuesday from 4:30-6 p.m. at the district office in St. George, 121 W. Tabernacle Street. To learn more about the proposal, see the district’s FAQ.
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