Ogden school officials reserved on idea of putting reworked bond plan to voters

Friday , November 24, 2017 - 5:15 AM9 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — No one on the Ogden school board seems to be leaping at the prospect of crafting an alternative bond proposal following the defeat of the $106.5 million plan put to voters earlier this month.

“We don’t know,” Jeff Heiner, president of the Ogden School District Board of Education, said Tuesday, when queried on the prospect. “We’re going to discuss that in the near future.”

Joyce Wilson, another board member, said she’d first like to see a more detailed analysis of voting on the bond issue, which may offer clues that help explain the proposal’s defeat. Whatever the case, maybe rebuilding one school at a time is the way to go, which would cost less and, as such, bypass the need to put another bond issue to the public, she said.

In balloting earlier this month, voters narrowly rejected the district’s $106.5 million bond proposal, which called for rebuilding three elementary schools, upgrading the Ben Lomond High School gym and adding collaborative classrooms to two junior high schools. School officials met Tuesday to canvass the results, as required by law, but offered limited reaction on the outcome or what comes next.

RELATED: Ogden voters turn back school bond proposal, Weber bond measure passes

In the end, 4,482 voted against the bond issue and 4,244 voted for it, a 51-49 split, according to the vote totals. School officials had argued that the proposed bond projects were vitally needed to update Ogden schools with technological and safety advances. Critics, though, blasted plans to enlarge the three elementary schools to be rebuilt, fearing they would lose their neighborhood feel, among many other things, and some called on school officials, instead, to come up with another bond proposal.

Though Heiner and Wilson — speaking after Tuesday’s meeting — were noncommittal on the notion of drawing up another bond proposal to put to voters, something that would generate broader support, they didn’t outright reject the possibility. But if officials are going to pursue a revamped bond, Wilson said, “we’d have to get started early in the calendar year.”

Board member Don Belnap offered stronger words. Speaking at the board’s Nov. 16 meeting, he expounded on the subject during the public comment section of the gathering, expressing opposition to drafting a reworked bond proposal to put to voters.

Instead, given continuing needs in the district — to update facilities and prevent the loss of students to other, newer schools outside the Ogden district — he proposed that the board pursue construction of just one new school in 2018. Because of the lower price tag, officials would bypass the need for a bond vote, similar to the process school officials followed in building Odyssey Elementary and New Bridge Elementary.

RELATED: Ogden school bond's failure muddies things, but most say upgrades still needed

“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 espousing the proposal to build one new facility, he said past experience shows that when new schools are built by the district, they draw students, some from charter schools.

Wendy Graham, the parent of a New Bridge Elementary student and a supporter of the bond proposal that failed, said officials should hold off on putting together another bond plan, at least in the next year. She attended Tuesday’s meeting, curious, in part, if officials would offer a hint of what comes next.

“I think they need to let it rest. There’s so much controversy out there, so much mudslinging,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ogden Education, the informal group that coalesced against the bond proposal, put out a call on its Facebook page last week seeking participation in efforts to come up with a new bond proposal. The message touches on the critics’ concerns about large elementary schools, one of their rallying points against the district bond proposal, among other things.

“We’ve got a roadmap on how to develop a community-driven school bond that could be ready as early as next fall, if approved by the board and after a significant community vetting and feedback opportunities,” the message reads.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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