Ogden School Board approves $26M bond, moves forward with Ben Lomond upgrade

Friday , March 02, 2018 - 5:00 AM8 comments

OGDEN — The Ogden School District Board of Education approved a lease-revenue bond Thursday that will be used to upgrade Ben Lomond High School’s gymnasium.

The approval of the $26 million lease-revenue bond comes as part of a string of efforts to improve the district’s schools. Updates to the gym were part of a failed $106.5 million bond proposal last year.

Before the vote, members of the community expressed support of the bond during a public hearing that lasted almost two hours.

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Mark Allen, Ben Lomond High football coach, said his students deserve a better gym.

“I get tired of my football team walking in the hallways of other schools in awe,” Allen said. “They feel it, they see it … and it’s not right.”

Jeff Kilts, the school’s athletic director, said the current gym poses a threat to student safety.

“It’s a building that has served its purpose and it’s falling apart,” Kilts said. “It’s basically time to put it down.”

Some members of the community, however, presented hesitation with passing the lease-revenue bond.

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Ken Burton, a parent in the school district and member of Ogden Education, said the school should consider other options before rebuilding the gym.

“This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a failed bond initiative,” Burton said.

In an emotional discussion, the majority of the board also agreed to close at least two schools and try to pass a general obligations bond in 2019.

Last month, the district worked with community groups to craft 11 possible scenarios to move forward and improve schools in the district.

All of those scenarios called for the closure of some elementary schools this year.

Ogden schools now considering 11 scenarios for closing, rebuilding elementaries

Jennifer Zundel, Ogden School Board vice president, said the district does not have the money to support schools that have a low number of students and staff.

“None of these decisions are easy,” Zundel said. “As we look at all of the information and all the data that we have, financially and as far as enrollment goes, it will hurt the district if we don’t close at least two elementary schools.”

Zane Woolstenhulme, Ogden School District business administrator, recommended not closing elementary schools this year and putting a bond proposal on the November 2019 ballot.

“If we decide we want to wait for a year, that takes a little bit of the pressure off (and) it gives us more time,” Woolstenhulme said.

Board member Don Belnap said the school board is listening to the community but insisted the board needed to act quickly on this matter.

“We are darned if we do it, darned if we do not,” Belnap said.

The district will narrow down the scenarios already presented and discuss the new versions at town hall meetings over the next two weeks.

Jeff Heiner, Ogden School Board president, said he would like to wait a year to close schools.

“There’s a part of me that I feel it’s a little bit rushed,” Heiner said. “In my mind, it’s better to wait.”

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.

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