Now let's develop a school bond proposal the entire community can support

Sunday , November 12, 2017 - 4:30 AM1 comment

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

The Ogden school bond initiative lost by 240 votes Tuesday.

Final totals showed 4,456 people voted against the $106.5 million proposal, while 4,216 supported it.

In a community so evenly divided, what happens next?

We come together to build the schools our children need.

The proposal on Tuesday’s ballot called for the replacement of three elementary schools, the addition of science and technology centers at two junior highs, and the construction of a new gymnasium at Ben Lomond High School.

  • RELATED: “More details emerge regarding Ogden elementary school rebuilds”

Polk, Horace Mann and T.O. Smith, the three schools targeted for demolition, cannot support modern technology. They’re old and crumbling.

Yet the Ogden Board of Education failed to identify which schools it intended to replace until after it had committed to a bond initiative. The final school selected for demolition — Polk — wasn’t announced until Sept. 21. Voters began receiving mail-in ballots less than a month later.

That was probably enough to ensure the initiative’s defeat, no matter how badly Ogden needs new schools. Because voters expect to be presented with a fully formed plan, not an empty bucket that’s gradually filled with $106 million in construction projects.

  • RELATED: “A vague and poorly planned school bond initiative”

Worse, the plan continued to evolve as election day approached.

No school in Ogden outperforms Polk academically. Built in 1926, it not only possesses historical significance, it serves as the heart of its neighborhood.

The board didn’t propose preserving Polk, or even part of it; the bond initiative called for tearing it down and replacing it with a larger school — the same as T.O. Smith and Horace Mann.

  • RELATED: “Ogden's Polk school at heart of debate over $106.5 million bond proposal”

School supporters reacted angrily to the late announcement about Polk, surprising the board. So the board offered to revisit its plans for the school. If the district had fully engaged the Polk community about the school’s future from the outset, the bond proposal might’ve passed.

But then again, maybe not. Because not only did the district develop its proposal on the fly, it failed to provide crucial details about what happened next. With Polk, Mann and Smith all below capacity, where would students come from to fill three bigger schools? How would the district absorb the cost of increased busing? Would the new buildings reduce district operational costs?

Start with a detailed plan, developed with the help of every neighborhood where a school will be upgraded, replaced or closed. Tell taxpayers exactly what they can expect to receive for their investment. Then put a second initiative on the ballot in 2018.

Ogden will rally around the right plan to improve its schools. But this wasn’t it.

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