EDUCATION + SCHOOLS
Parent, district spokesman talk about closing Alpine schools
Apr 26, 2023, 6:30 PM
(Alpine School District, Twitter)
SALT LAKE CITY — A group of parents is planning to sue the Alpine School District for allegedly “unlawfully closing five elementary schools and changing the boundaries of many others.” A district spokesman said the board has decided to postpone, for now, closing three of the five schools.
Dave Noriega and KSL at Night host Maura Carabello speak with Crystal Muhlestein, a parent of students at Windsor Elementary School, about why she feels the district has not met the legal demands for these closures; followed by David Stephenson, who is the executive director of external relations and communications for the district. He joins the show with insight into the closures and the feedback process.
After a proposed $595 million bond for the district was defeated on Nov. 8, 2022 by voters, the Alpine Board sent a letter in December to parents in the district that said a boundary study would begin that could result in potential school closures.
In February, the board said Windsor, Valley View, Sharon, Lindon and Lehi elementary schools would close at the end of the next school year.
“Lehi was built in 1951. Sharon in 1954. So, these are very old elementary schools. . . there are some stabilization issues at least as far as earthquakes come in,” Dave said. “They don’t have the support of the steel beams and reinforcements. . . because they were built in the ’50s and then the ’60s.”
During the district’s Nov. 29, 2022 board meeting, the board requested a districtwide boundary study to explore possibilities of restructuring or consolidating boundaries and evaluating school buildings, Stephenson said as reported by KSL.com.
Parent says Alpine School District didn’t follow state law
Under state law, Muhlestein said the district must notify parents and cities of a proposed school closure, provide for 120 days of input on the proposal, hold a final vote and then implement the school closure.
“In contrast, Alpine School District, on February 28, they held their final vote. Then on March 1, they notified the public, the parents and the cities about their proposals. They started implementing those changes to close schools after that and then started the public input process,” she said. “So they have breached the law majorly in this process, and we just want to hold them accountable to that.”
“When the bond sale, the $600 million bond failed in the Alpine School District, didn’t that just seal the fate of these schools?” Dave asked.
“That’s a hard question to answer because none of these schools were listed on the bond to be fixed,” Muhlestein said. “There were six or seven schools listed to be built out in the western part of Utah Valley, but none of the schools that are listed to close were addressed on this bond. So, it’s hard to say that that’s what sealed this deal when they didn’t say they were going to address this issue without bond money in the first place.”
Alpine district spokesman joins the show
“I’m gonna start out with the question that I think the parents are asking, which is why can’t the district not take more time?” Maura asked.
Stephenson said the district consulted state law that requires 120 days to give notice of a proposed school closure or a boundary change. He said a notice from the board was sent out to parents on Dec. 8, 2022.
“In that same statute, it says at least 30 days before a public hearing you’re to indicate the specific schools that are under consideration for closure or boundary change,” he said, adding that on Feb. 28, 2023, the board announced the list of the five schools slated for closure.
There are 82 days between Dec. 8, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2023.
Stephenson said that based on more than 1,500 comments and six open houses, which he said are not required under the statute, the board decided to “hold off” closing Lehi, Linden and Windsor elementary schools until the 2024-25 school year and will continue to study closing only Sharon and Valley View schools for this next school year.
Parents file a lawsuit to prevent Alpine School District from closing schools
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