'Moving day' for Utah's largest school district

Education » Jordan makes way for Canyons District colleagues
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Five hundred employees, 450 computers, a fleet of buses, mechanics and carpentry shops, thousands of pounds of textbooks and decades of payroll records: "Moving day" for Jordan School District is no day-long affair.

Since east-side residents voted to peel away from the 105-year-old district, Jordan Superintendent Barry Newbold has focused on the July 1 transfer of nearly half his schools and assets to the still-nascent Canyons School District.

Part of that transition occurs behind the scenes -- the frantic six-week period in which Jordan vacates its central office in Sandy to make way for the Canyons team. All this while delivering seamless service to the still-intact district's 80,000 students.

"The move itself went pretty well. But it has been difficult and emotional. There's a lot of history here," said Jordan's special education program manager Echo Cunningham, among the first to move Monday amid the din of construction crews and painters. "There's some sense of this as kind of new territory to be innovative and try new things. But personally, I'm sort of torn over whether it's a good or bad thing."

Until Jordan can afford permanent digs, the district will rent three buildings in West Jordan.

"At least we're closer to our schools out here," said Jordan spokeswoman Melinda Colton. When the split goes live, Jordan will serve students residing west of the Jordan River in Bluffdale, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan. Canyons will serve Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Draper, Midvale and Alta.

Jordan's move is happening in stages with the superintendent being the last to leave.

"I think he wants to turn the lights off," said Colton.

Canyons officials face their own challenges.

Cottonwood Heights Elementary, the district's temporary home, isn't very suitable to desk work with its large hallways and classrooms.

The hours are long. The district -- the first to be created in Utah in nearly a century -- has staffed up at a rate of about 4 employees a week. There's no air conditioning and employees furnish their own "offices" with items from surplus.

"But we're grateful for the space," said Canyons spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook.

A sense of humor helps. As a joke, district staff were given Razor scooters to facilitate "inner-office" travel. One office boasts a therapy corner with a plush Sigmund Freud atop a chaise lounge.

Call them crazy for leaving distinguished careers in a sputtering economy, but Toomer-Cook said her colleagues are practically giddy about starting anew.

Canyons Superintendent David Doty has promised change, but major reforms are probably a year away, said Toomer-Cook.

That's where Canyons and Jordan converge. Officials at both districts say when school starts next fall, teachers, parents and students shouldn't notice a difference.

"That's our greatest hope," said Colton. "Our employees are working crazy hours. They're exhausted. But they're driven by a commitment to what's best for students."


Tax hike OK, but not too high

Residents of the west half of Jordan School District think splitting their district was unwise. And while 60 percent say they would definitely or probably be willing to pay more in taxes to keep schools afloat, a 33 percent hike might be too high, a poll commissioned by the Jordan school board shows.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 408 west side residents in late April and early May. Results carry a 5 percent margin of error.

The findings will help guide the school board as it looks to shave $25 million from the district's $300 million budget. Final decisions could come as soon as May 26.

Those surveyed overwhelmingly oppose increasing class sizes or cutting school programs. Forty-three percent deem the district split very unfavorable and 67 percent are very concerned about the financial fallout.

There's some appetite for reducing nonteaching staff and support for a property tax hike. But when asked about a 33 percent increase, from about $338 to $451 a year on a $100,000 home, only a plurality voiced support.

Breaking up is hard to do

Jordan School District is moving from its Sandy location to an office at Jordan Landing in West Jordan, 7387 South Campus View Drive

For more information, call 801-567-8100 or visit, http://www.jordandistrict.org.

The new Canyons School District headquarters is at Cottonwood Heights Elementary, 2415 E. 7600 South. Sometime after July 1, the district will occupy Jordan's old offices at 9361 S. 300 East in Sandy.

For more information call, 801-501-1000 or visit, http://www.canyonsdistrict.org.