Orem to study Alpine District split

Fourth-largest: The move comes after 1,000 residents asked to make a new district

By Mark Eddington
The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune OREM - They may not be ready to go it alone on education, but Orem leaders on Tuesday took a major step in that direction.
   By unanimous vote, City Council members agreed to a feasibility study to weigh the merits of defecting from the Alpine School District and creating their own.
   “We have taken a historic first step,” Mayor Jerry Washburn said after the council's vote.
   Orem is the state's second city to agree to a feasibility study. Earlier this month, Holladay committed to study bolting from the 77,000-student Jordan School District. And Sandy, Cottonwood Heights, South Salt Lake, West Jordan and West Valley City may opt to join Holladay.
   Alpine School District, the state's fourth-largest, has 54,585 students.
   “It's just too big,” said Lonnie Iverson, one of many Orem residents at Tuesday's meeting pushing for the study. The district “doesn't have the best interests of our children at heart.”
   Others noted school enrollments in Orem are declining and complained about their property taxes bankrolling construction of new schools in Eagle Mountain, Lehi and other higher-growth areas in northern Utah County.
   But foes of the study countered that data collected two years ago, during Lehi's unsuccessful bid to split from the district, show such a move is not financially wise or feasible.
   “The data collected reflects the benefits of a larger system and how it increases efficiency,” Orem resident Gary Seastrand said.
   While agreeing to do a study, the council did not resolve much else - who will do the study, how much the city will pay and when it will be completed.
   Staff will work with the council in the next few weeks to decide the scope of the study before entertaining bids from consultants.
   For now, they agree, the study will examine just Orem separating from the district. But City Manager Jim Reams said he will contact other cities to see if they want to participate. Cedar Hills, Lindon and Vineyard have shown interest.
   Orem's action comes after 1,000 residents petitioned the city to form its own school district, a process now allowed by a new state law.
   Under state statute, the city must do a feasibility study. Once it is completed, the council can vote to forward the proposal for a new district on to the County Commission, which has it placed on the ballot at the next general or municipal election.