Ogden school bond's failure muddies things, but most say upgrades still needed

Sunday , November 12, 2017 - 5:00 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Though the Ogden School District’s $106.5 million bond proposal failed, that doesn’t mean the need for upgrades in the system’s schools fades away.

But whether the seeming recognition of the district’s deficiencies leads to another proposal — and if so, when — remains to be seen. At this stage, school officials aren’t saying much.

“I see the conditions of the schools and I know we need to prepare our students for 21st century learning,” said Sandy Coroles, the former OSD superintendent who spearheaded Friends of Ogden Schools, a group that pushed for passage of the bond.

Similarly, Dustin Chapman, spokesman for Ogden Education, which pushed for the bond’s defeat, said he hopes another bond proposal emerges to upgrade district schools, something palatable to more voters. The district’s $106.5 million bond proposal narrowly failed in balloting that finished Tuesday, with 4,456 voting against it and 4,216 voting for it, a 51-49 split, according to unofficial tallies.

RELATED: Ogden voters turn back school bond proposal, Weber bond measure passes

“I don’t think the bond’s failure means people in Ogden don’t support education or don’t support our children. I think it means we want to do it the right way,” Chapman said.

Many foes of the bond proposal were particularly irked by the provision calling for reconstruction and expansion of three grade schools, questioning the need for bigger facilities and fearing such change would turn them into large student repositories.

RELATED: Ogden's Polk school at heart of debate over $106.5 million bond proposal

Whatever the case, school reps are guarded on the possibility of a revamped bond proposal, at least now, just days after the measure’s defeat. The school’s plan called for a new gym at Ben Lomond High School, two new collaborative teaching facilities at two junior high schools and reconstruction of Horace Mann, T.O. Smith and Polk schools.

“We’re disappointed that the bond didn’t pass, but we will move forward,” Jeff Heiner, president of the Ogden Board of Education, said in an email. “We know that we have many capital facility needs to address and the board will consider all possible options to address those needs.”

Heiner offered no predictions on the likelihood of another bond proposal.

District spokesman Jer Bates said any decision on a new bond initiative would come from the school board. If officials decide to craft another bond plan, he suspects many in the public will want to take part and he encouraged continued involvement from the public.

“Regardless of how you voted, the fact that you voted shows that you are willing to take an active role in the education of Ogden children,” he said in an email. School officials will seek continued input as they look “to provide the best education possible through both evolving teaching practices and improved learning spaces.”

‘Have some consensus’

Coroles hopes the varied sides in the bond debate can reach middle ground. The issue generated strong heat from some critical of the initiative, evidenced by pointed questions and comments from parents during at least two meetings with school officials leading up to the vote.

RELATED: Polk Elementary community voices concerns with potential school rebuild

RELATED: Lack of Ogden School District bond initiative details draws ire from parents

“I just think we need to all come together and have some consensus,” she said.

Aside from the notion of building larger schools, some didn’t like the idea of demolishing Polk School, built in 1926, and others thought the overall proposal wasn’t crafted with enough input.

Chapman said a big question for him in putting together any new bond plan will be whether larger, four-section schools are the way to go. Per the proposal turned back by voters, Polk, T.O. Smith and Horace Mann would have been enlarged, capable of handling four classes within each grade level, up from the two or three classes that is currently the norm.

“Is that the right model for Ogden? Are those the right models for all of Ogden?” he said.

Ogden Education reps want to take part in future deliberations on any bond measure, to the extent school officials welcome their input, he said. Should school officials decide to pursue another bond, the trick, he thinks, will be coming up with a plan more people can get behind.

“We want better facilities. We want better education,” Chapman said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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