School board approves boundary change, merging 2 elementary schools

Composite image shows a screenshot of the proposed district-wide boundary changes, with an inset photo of Coral Cliffs Elementary School, which will be repurposed into a professional development school, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After weeks of meetings with parents and school personnel, the Washington County School Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal they say is intended to increase enrollment and save taxpayer dollars.

Before taking public comment from parents in the audience, Rex Wilkey, assistant superintendent for elementary education, presented the proposal to the board during its meeting Tuesday evening. Wilkey said the school district has been looking at ways to increase enrollment since last summer because enrollment on the west side of the district has declined.

Wilkey told the board that five schools are more than 100 students below the enrollment numbers they should have.

The proposal the district decided to present to the board Tuesday was one that was the result of parents feedback. The first proposal, which entailed repurposing Dixie Sun Elementary and sending students to Coral Cliffs Elementary, received negative feedback from parents of students who attend Dixie Sun. So the school district proposed an alternative.

Under the second proposal – which was first discussed with the board in the beginning of January – students in the Dixie Sun boundary would remain, and Coral Cliffs would be repurposed to house district office and a professional development school, much like the Edith Bowen Laboratory School in Logan. With the professional development school, around 120-140 students will stay at Coral Cliffs, while the rest will attend Dixie Sun.

The approved proposal for the 2019-20 school year would also require a district-wide boundary change. The proposed boundaries can be viewed by clicking here.

Wilkey said the proposal is expected to save taxpayers $350,000. With the decision, the Dual Immersion Program at Dixie Sun would change to what the district is calling a “hybrid/stand” of the program, where it would be first through fifth grade instead of starting in kindergarten.

Before approving the proposal, the school board held a public hearing where four people chose to speak. One parent made a suggestion to the board and said if Dixie Sun were rebranded with a new name and identity, enrollment would increase.

“And in that process that you add technology as an added focus for the school,” the woman said to the board. “It would be really appealing to parents on the west side of town and probably a lot of other areas.”

Another person who spoke during the public hearing said security is a concern under the new proposal due to additional students filling the schools. Board member Craig Seegmiller said safety is a conversation the district is always having. Part of the bond money that was approved in 2018 will be spent to improve Dixie Sun for added safety, he said.

Before making their decision, multiple board members insisted that they take these decisions seriously, adding that it’s not an easy decision to make.

We want to make sure that students are taken care of and they’re safe, they’re protected and they’re taught,” board member Kelly Blake said, adding that the district also wants to make sure taxpayers are served.

The board unanimously voted to approve the proposal on the condition that boundaries can be subject to change before the proposal is ruled out in fall 2019.

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

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