Concerns from parents prompt district to propose alternative to merging 2 elementary schools

File photo of Washington County School District office, St. George, Utah, Sept. 11, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After receiving feedback and concerns from hundreds of parents last month over a proposal to merge two St. George elementary schools, Washington County School District has brought another proposal to the county Board of Education for consideration.

With the intent of increasing enrollment and saving taxpayer dollars, the school district presented the first proposal on Dec. 11 to repurpose Dixie Sun Elementary to house several district programs, including a professional development center.

Read more: School board to discuss possibility of merging two St. George elementary schools

Under this proposal, students who attend Dixie Sun would then have to switch to Coral Cliffs Elementary, which is a little over a mile away. Steve Dunham, school district communication and public relations director, said this proposal received a lot of negative feedback, especially from parents of children who attend Dixie Sun, a dual immersion school that currently has 401 students enrolled.

Under the second proposal, which was discussed with the board on Jan. 8, Dixie Sun students would remain, and Coral Cliffs, which has 445 students, would be repurposed.

Coral Cliffs Elementary School in St. George, Utah, Jan. 23, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Half of the building would house professional development offices and some media services, while the other half would serve as a professional development school — much like the Edith Bowen Laboratory School in Logan.

“It was an opportunity for them to create an atmosphere that was actually a school,” Dunham said, referring to the Edith Bowen school created by Utah State University, “(a place) where they could put their education students, their students who wanted to be teachers, in a real atmosphere and learn to be a teacher.”

The proposed professional development school would house 140-150 elementary students, meaning the other students at Coral Cliffs would then attend Dixie Sun.

In order to increase enrollment overall, part of the second proposal is to do a district-wide boundary change. With the proposed boundary for Coral Cliffs, Dunham said there are between 90-100 students who live in the boundary area, meaning there would be some flexibility for other students to stay at Coral Cliffs as well.

As far as the difference in size between the two schools, Dunham said Coral Cliffs is about one classroom bigger.

A file photo of Dixie Sun Elementary School, St. George, Utah, Nov. 19, 2013 | Photo by Misty Amodt, St. George News

Under the second proposal for Dixie Sun, it would still be a dual immersion school – which allows students to learn a second language – however, the dual immersion would only be first through fifth grade, instead of starting in kindergarten.

“We try to maintain kindergarten as long as we could,” Dunham said. “That’s a trick, because you don’t always have parents who want their children in immersion in kindergarten.”

Due to Dixie Sun having a “neighborhood boundary” under the second proposal, Dunham said English classes would be offered.

“Students don’t have to come to that school to learn Spanish, which is the way it’s kind of been in the past.”

When the school district presented the first proposal, Dunham said a lot of parents had concerns, such as they felt like they hadn’t had an opportunity to be heard.

“They felt like the decision was already made,” he said, referring to the parents of students at Dixie Sun. “That was a clear message to us that we hadn’t communicated well enough.”

In regard to the parents of students at Coral Cliffs, Dunham said parents were concerned about the schools being divided up, their children suffering from having to switch schools and whether teachers would be losing their jobs. But overall, he said the second proposal was better received than the first one.

“Change is hard, but kids are pretty good at adapting to that change,” he said.

School district administration reassured parents that the district has jobs for all of its teachers, and the teachers from Coral Cliffs would be given priority over where they’d like to work if this second proposal were approved.

According to the WCSD website, the first proposal would save taxpayers $500,000 in operating costs. Under the second proposal, however, Dunham said it would only save taxpayers approximately $350,000.

“The options available to the board are to go with proposal one, proposal two or to do nothing,” he said, “and that’s really not an option.”

The district will discuss the second proposal with the Board of Education in a special meeting Monday at 5:15 p.m. at the district office, located at 121 West Tabernacle. Dunham said the district is allowing the public to attend.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • utahdiablo January 23, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    Heck, just add even more so called “Temp” buildings ( mobile trailers ) that never ever go away to the school grounds…never seen so much money aka “special bonds” in the 100’s of Millions that we the taxpayers in Washington county keep getting stuck with, yet never ever does this problem get fixed….how about we clean house as to the Super on down and start over again with fresh blood

  • Not_So_Much January 24, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    I do not want to loose Coral Cliffs as the neighborhood elementary and the impact on home values. If this was a business, you’d save $500k rather than $350k because $150k could pay for some extra staffing in the district.

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