This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
City councils in three south Salt Lake Valley communities acted Tuesday to let voters decide whether they want to split off from the Jordan School District and form a new east-side district.
The councils in Cottonwood Heights and Midvale made it unanimous; the Draper council voted 4-1 to put the measure on the November ballot. Bill Colbert, the lone dissenter, said he worries that Draper would not have enough representation on a new school board.
Still to weigh in on the ballot issue: Alta, Sandy and Salt Lake County.
"The county is the real land mine," Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore told his council. "If they choose not to allow a vote, then the issue is dead."
For its part, the Jordan district is remaining neutral regarding the split.
But in Cullimore's southeast Salt Lake County city, Tuesday night's discussion was lively and diverse.
Cottonwood Heights resident Don Machin is concerned about duplication of efforts and the west side's increased tax burden.
"Why not conduct one more study that asks why don't we combine four districts into one?" Machin suggested. "And I recommend going with a consultant from out of state."
Nicole Bangerter, a teacher and mother of five, held the opposite view.
"Smaller districts would be to our advantage" - to better address such problems as teen pregnancy and substance abuse, Bangerter said.
The Jordan district, she said, has "not proven that bigger is better."
Said Councilman Bruce Jones: "I appreciated the opportunity to hear the merits, but that's not what we're voting on tonight. We're voting to continue the dialogue."
In Draper, most of the debate revolved around a unique issue in SunCrest, the hilltop development that straddles Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Legal opinions from several attorneys say a district split would have to follow city lines. That means students who live in the Utah County portion of SunCrest - and who currently attend school in the Alpine School District - would change schools.
Parents worry that would mean losing bus service.
"It doesn't make sense for people at 16400 South to drive our kids 12 miles to a bus, and then have them ride to 9400 south for school," said SunCrest resident Delaina Tonks. "Please let us stay where we are [in Alpine District]."
Draper City Manager Layne Long said attorneys have not yet found a legal way to exclude SunCrest from the split. But the city is working with Alpine's superintendent, and Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, said he'd work toward a legislative solution.
"We want to make sure needs of students and parents are met," Dougall said. "This is a work in progress - everyone recognizes that.
In Midvale, only a dozen residents showed up, but the few who spoke supported a split.
"I have a real strong feeling about cutting [the Jordan School District] down and making it smaller and more accountable," said Lorene Butler, a cafeteria worker at Hillcrest. Her four children attended school in the district.
"I would urge you - please - to go along with this" process to create a new district.
City officials fear that not joining the other east-side cities could mean the closure of Hillcrest High School, which is located in Midvale but also draws students from Sandy and Cottonwood Heights.
The council and Mayor JoAnn Seghini also have felt pressured by the possibility that West Jordan could form its own district, leaving Midvale stranded between two new districts.
A school district must have contiguous boundaries and a population of 65,000. There can be no "islands" that are part of another district. For instance:
* If sizable Sandy opts out and remains in the Jordan district, it could kill the proposed district because it leaves unincorporated areas of the county within Sandy as islands.
* If tiny Alta opts out, it could kill it because the district would leave Alta as a Jordan district island.
* If the county opts out, it could snuff out a new district as well because some unincorporated areas are islands in Sandy, along with a large, but sparsely populated portion of the county to the east of Cottonwood Heights and Sandy.
* If an outlying city opts out - Cottonwood Heights, Draper or Midvale - the district could still work. But the feasibility study would need to be revised, as it no longer would represent the new district's viability.
* Cottonwood Heights, Midvale and some contiguous areas of the county could band together to reach the required population. But a new feasibility study likely would be needed.
- Cathy McKitrick