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In Ogden, building a better public school system — together

Tuesday , March 06, 2018 - 4:30 AM1 comment

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

The Ogden School District showed that it learned from its failed November bond initiative.

Developing a plan for the city’s public schools won’t be easy, and the district will occasionally stumble, as it did this week.

But this time, it’s starting with a clear, detailed set of options, and it’s reaching out to the community for guidance on the elementary schools it needs to close, renovate or rebuild.

  • RELATED: “Ogden schools now considering 11 scenarios for closing, rebuilding elementaries”

Now it’s up to us to participate in the process.

The district put a $106.5 million bond initiative on the November ballot. Essentially, it involved tearing down and replacing three schools, as well as closing at least one — Taylor Canyon.

Officials didn’t identify the first school it intended to replace until August. Finally, in the third week of September, the board announced Polk Elementary as the final school.

  • RELATED: “A vague and poorly planned school bond initiative”

Voters started receiving their ballots in the mail a few weeks later.

When residents on the East Bench reacted angrily to the idea of rebuilding Polk, the district offered to discuss options that didn’t involve razing the school — which only reinforced the sense that the school board was making up the initiative as it went along.

The initiative failed by 238 votes.

Board members, understandably reluctant to propose another bond initiative, put aside their disappointment and quickly began applying what they learned in November. By the middle of February, they’d worked with community groups to put together 11 options.

The district announced a series of town halls to discuss those alternatives, seeking the community’s guidance, neighborhood by neighborhood. Which is exactly the right way to build trust and encourage ideas — except officials scheduled the first meeting Monday night at Taylor Canyon and didn’t publicize it until last weekend.

  • RELATED: “Ogden School District schedules 5 town halls this week about school closures”

Monday afternoon, the district released a schedule of meetings every night through Friday, March 9.

Spokesman Jer Bates acknowledged the neighborhoods didn’t receive much notice.

“I understand there are people who are going to say that the district is not communicating well,” Bates said. “We are going out in good faith.”

We should engage them in the same spirit.

Ogden’s public school enrollment is falling. Many of its elementary school buildings are crumbling and cannot support modern technology.

If we value education, if we care about the future of our children and the community in which we live, we’ll find a way forward — together.

MEETING SCHEDULE

Here are the remaining town hall meetings this week about possible school closures:

  • 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 6: Wasatch Elementary
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 7: Gramercy Elementary
  • 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8: Hillcrest Elementary
  • 6 p.m. Friday, March 9: Polk Elementary

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