Finding a way to move ahead in the Ogden School District

Sunday , January 07, 2018 - 4:30 AM8 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

It is a new year, a time for hope and renewal.

Especially in the Ogden School District, where officials appear ready to move on from defeat of a November bond initiative.

  • RELATED: “Ogden school officials weigh moving ahead with Ben Lomond HS gym upgrade”

Ogden’s aging schools need to be replaced or updated. Some need to be closed.

In November, the district asked voters to approve a $106 million bond to replace three elementary schools, construct “professional gateway centers” at two junior high schools and improve the gymnasium at Ben Lomond High School.

The initiative failed by 238 votes, largely because of turnout on the East Bench, where opponents objected to the idea of tearing down Polk Elementary.

  • RELATED: “Ogden's East Bench voters doomed $106.5 million school bond proposal”

Polk, built in 1926, is not only historically significant, it’s also the district’s highest-performing school. The state awarded it an A for its student test scores in 2016-17. It was Polk’s second straight A.

District officials made a fatal mistake by committing to a bond issue in July, but waiting until late September to announce they planned to raze Polk and replace it with a larger school.

When the Polk neighborhood objected, district officials offered to preserve part of the building, if that’s what the community wanted.

Unfortunately, that only cemented the impression district officials were making up the proposal as they went along, contributing to its defeat.

Board members spent some time reflecting on the results and weighing the possibility of another initiative. Shortly after the vote, Don Belnap flatly rejected the idea.

“Thus, again, if you think I’m willing to spend the next 12 to 24 months trying to craft another bond proposal, that if it isn’t just perfect ... it’ll be voted down again, I say, ‘No way,’” he said in November.

But at a work session this week, board members expressed more openness to a second initiative. They also showed interest in using existing revenue to upgrade the Ben Lomond gym and rebuild an elementary school.

Standing pat “is not only not an option, it’s not very smart on our part,” Belnap said Wednesday.

He’s right. The smart play is using the tools at your disposal to start making improvements now, then developing a plan to move the entire district forward through passage of a bond initiative.

Let’s develop that plan as a community — as partners. Because we all want a better future for our children.

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