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Ogden School District weighing school closures, redrawing boundaries

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 6, 2021
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The new Polk Elementary, still taking shape, is to be ready for the 2022-2023 school year. The photo was taken Monday, Oct 4, 2021.
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A rendering of Liberty School, taking shape in south Ogden and to replace T.O. Smith elementary, which was torn down. The rendering shows the school with the T.O. Smith name, though officials have since decided to rename it. The new school is to open for the 2022-2023 school year.
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A rendering of what Polk Elementary in Ogden is to look like once the upgrade is done. The revamped school is to open for the 2022-2023 school year.
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The new Polk Elementary, still taking shape, is to be ready for the 2022-2023 school year. The photo was taken Monday, Oct 4, 2021.

OGDEN — As two new schools take shape in Ogden — the revamped Polk Elementary and the new school that’ll replace T.O. Smith Elementary — Ogden School District officials are mulling adjustments to school boundaries in conjunction with the change.

Additional school closures could also be in the offing.

To be sure, no decisions have been made and formal public debate may not start until next January, with action, if officials decide on change, coming after that. But district administrators issued a public notice late last month, per state law, to give district parents, students, staff and others a heads up that action may be on the way.

“Due to shifting enrollment and increased student capacity in our newer elementary schools, the Ogden School District Board of Education will be considering a number of options that include the possibility of closing some aging elementary schools and adjusting school boundaries,” reads the notice. It’s posted on the home page of the district website and was sent to district parents.

Taylor Canyon Elementary is scheduled to close after the 2021-2022 school year once the reconstruction of Polk is complete and it opens for the 2022-2023 school year. Many Taylor Canyon students would presumably attend the new Polk given the proximity of the neighborhoods that feed the two East Bench schools.

Beyond Taylor Canyon, though, officials haven’t made any decisions about new closures. “Because of their age and related operational limitations, Bonneville, Hillcrest and James Madison elementary schools would be our only remaining schools that could be considered for potential consolidation or repurposing,” Bates said.

School officials, aided by independent experts, Bates added, are investigating “residency movement” in Ogden to get a handle on possible boundary shifts and closures in conjunction with the varied changes in the district.

Among other changes, what was T.O. Smith Elementary in south Ogden has been torn down and will be replaced by a new school named Liberty Elementary, now taking shape. East Ridge Elementary — the third new school in the district funded by an $87 million bond issue approved by voters in 2018 — opened in August, replacing Horace Mann Elementary, which was torn down. Wasatch Elementary received a new addition as part of the 2018 bond funding.

Though the new elementary schools, perhaps, represent the most significant change in the district, Bates said boundaries of all schools, including junior high schools and high schools, are also being reviewed as part of the ongoing process. Per state law, though, no changes can be made until 120 days after the notice sent to parents, emailed on Sept. 24.

That timeline “puts us in February at the earliest that anything could be officially decided,” Bates said. Meantime, the notice itself states that parents will receive word going forward on how to provide feedback.

Gramercy Elementary closed after the 2018-2019 school year, though the building is being used this year to house T.O. Smith Elementary students pending completion of Liberty Elementary. Gramercy is to remain shuttered after the current school year ends.

THE NAME CHANGES

The new names for the schools replacing Horace Mann and T.O. Smith elementaries, East Ridge and Liberty, stemmed from direction from the Ogden School Board to avoid naming schools after individuals. Horace Mann was a 19th century education reformer while T.O. Smith served as superintendent of Ogden schools from 1948-1969.

Bates said community input was sought in the process. East Ridge ties in with the area of Ogden where the new school is located, he said. The grounds of the new Liberty School, meanwhile, abut Liberty Avenue.

At this stage, there doesn’t seem to be any big push to change the name of Polk Elementary.

“Polk is a slightly different situation from the previous two locations as those are completely new buildings, while Polk is a renovation and addition,” Bates said. School officials sought community feedback and 92% of those surveyed indicated support for keeping the name as is, but an official decision on the school’s name has yet to be made.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the district’s position on whether to rename Polk Elementary.

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