SW 102617 Polk Elementary 02

Students walk down the stairs after school Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, at Polk Elementary in Ogden. The school is one of three elementary schools that would be rebuilt per an Ogden School District $106.5 million bond proposal, but many have argued that the 90-year-old school should be renovated and preserved. One concern is the lack of easy access for disabled students. “Getting them out quickly, that becomes an issue,” said Steve Torman, buildings and ground supervisor for the district.

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.

(1) comment


Sound analysis of why the bond proposal failed, and sound advice on how the next one --- and there should be a next one  --- should be handled to increase the likelihood of passing.Probably true, as suggested above, that once the Board sent a bond proposal out without naming the schools it planned to rebuild, or the schools it expected to close to fill the three new 800+ big box elementary schools, the plan was in trouble.  And trust in the Board eroded quickly.  Few likely  believed the Board didn't know which schools it planned to rebuild or which elementary schools it expected to close.  When Mr. Stokes, member of the State Board of Education said he flat out he didn't believe it, and the Board quickly announced after his statement the three target schools, trust eroded still more.One major goal of the bond plan was to close several elementary schools, as Mr. Bates made plain to the SE in July.  Which ones? Board wasn't saying.  On the eve of election day, voters still had no clear idea from the Board of what elementary schools it expected to close. "Just approve the money and we'll let you know about schools closing later" was not a prudent stand to take.  Of couse many voted "no." They weren't sure what voting "yes" would mean for them and their children.In half a century of watching school boards in three states post bond proposals, I've never seen one as ineptly handled as Ogden's.  Back in April, Mr. Bates reported that 13% responding to a poll OSD ran re: a bond proposal said thay " wanted more information before deciding whether to support the bond initiative," and that “the big recurring theme for people is ‘I want to know what you're going to do with it."  Somehow, the Board and OSD apparently fogot the results of their own polling when they wrote the bond proposal.But, water under the bridge.  Ogden schools need upgrades and, in some cases, replacing. Few disagree. Time for real leadership on the Board and at OSD to create a new proposal and to do it effectively this tine.

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