In what would be the most significant educational decision in decades for Utah County families, the Alpine School District (ASD) Board of Education voted on Tuesday to begin the study process of splitting the state’s largest school district. The split would create two or three districts.
“The split issue has been discussed in Alpine School District for over 20 years. Is Alpine too big? Do we have economies of scale? Is there sufficient representation?” said ASD Assistant Superintendent Rob Smith to begin the board discussion.
The school district began the informal process of studying a split in 2021. This topic recently rose to the forefront of community discussion when the Orem City Council placed an Orem exit from the district on the 2022 ballot. Orem voters soundly rejected this effort.
District staff suggested the board approve a study including input from a group of community stakeholders and anticipate a ballot decision on the matter in the November 2024 election.
District staff also mentioned that Utah state law doesn’t allow the ASD board to send the district split reconfiguration questions straight to the ballot. The current state code would require the board to send their district reconfiguration to the Utah County Commission and an ad hoc committee, who would then deliberate and send the final ballot proposition to the voters. Smith noted that the district is lobbying for a change allowing the board to send the reconfiguration proposal straight to the ballot. A Utah County legislator has already created a bill file for the 2024 General Session.
“This is not a look at a spreadsheet, look at taxes and buildings and enrollment projections and then just say it’s [option] A or B. This is way more complicated than that. We’re talking about significant issues in the support provided to our employees. One of the things I’m concerned about is ASD is the 2nd largest employer in Utah County. If we do this poorly, I feel it will have a significant economic impact on our county and our individual cities,” said Eagle Mountain Board Member Julie King.
Ada Wilson, a board member representing Orem, motioned to move forward with the study and instructed the ASD staff to hire a third party to conduct the research and provide an unbiased report detailing the split equitably and transparently. In the motion, board members requested the study be completed and presented to the board by September 2023. The motion passed unanimously.
“My plea to the public is to please talk to your friends and neighbors. It was really hard after the bond to hear people say they ‘had no idea.’ While very significant, it’s nowhere near how serious this will be or how it will impact families. This is the time for people to be heard,” said Lehi board representative Stacy Bateman, expressing her support for the study.
The district will now post a request for proposal (RFP) for a third party to conduct the study and begin working through potential boundaries, facilities and resource splits, staffing and taxes, among a plethora of future challenges.