Two Provo schools closing

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    By Shana Helps

    Two Provo schools are closing, one is moving, but the teachers get to stay.

    Farrer Middle School will be eliminated because there are not enough students to justify three middle schools, said Randall Merrill, assistant superintendent of Provo School District. Joaquin Elementary students will be moved to the Farrer building.

    The school board announced the closing Tuesday and also said the Joaquin land will be sold, and Edgemont Elementary will be closed for one year and land banked. This means that the district will hold on to the land and see what happens to enrollment rates in the area.

    The enrollment is very low, Merrill said.

    “The bottom line is we have too many schools,” he said.

    Teachers are hired based on the number of children. There is nothing that says the teachers will lose their jobs based on the changes, said Bob Gentry, personnel director for Provo School District.

    The new school boundaries will take effect at the beginning of the 2003 school year. The board has a proposal for school boundaries but it has not been finalized, Merrill said.

    “We honestly want public input,” he said.

    There is a need for a central city elementary school on the east side, Merrill said. That is why Joaquin students will be moved to Farrer. The building is being underutilized as a middle school, he said.

    “That piece of property is really one of the finest pieces of property that the district owns,” Merrill said.

    The board made the decision to benefit the district as a whole, Merrill said. Every decision was based on what the best relationship will be between money saved and the impact on the children, he said.

    “You hate to see either of those things happen, but the necessary thing to do is that they”ve got to balance the books,” said Don Dowdle, principal of Joaquin Elementary.

    The children still need to be taught so the teachers will follow them to the different schools, said Sam Ray, principal at Farrer Middle School.

    “Of course we”re sad to see these kind of things happen, and we just are going to try to do our best in light of difficult times,” he said.

    There has been a lot of progress at Farrer, due to programs that benefited the children in general as well as special needs and gifted children, Ray said. The teachers will carry that on with them, he said.

    “We”ve had a lot of successes here and it will probably benefit the entire district,” he said.

    Children at Edgemont will be moved to Canyon Crest and Rock Canyon Elementary Schools. The next year will remain steady, said Dave Moyle, principal at Edgemont.

    “I hate to see it close. It”s a neat place. It”s been here a long time, but I know it”s being land banked,” he said.

    The district has been struggling with trying to balance the budget, Merrill said. They have been looking at 15 different proposals over the past three months, narrowing them down to the best ones.

    The plan had to balance the budget, place students in their neighborhood school when feasible, displace as few students as possible and provide for anticipated growth, Merrill said.

    “It”s a good decision, but it doesn”t mean it”s an easy decision,” Merrill said.

    The board previously eliminated 23 teaching positions and four administrative positions, and class sizes have been increased to give a ratio of about 28 students per teacher, Merrill said.

    The board had moved $2.4 million from the capital budget into the maintenance and operation budget. This took money away from building improvement and other capital investment in order to pay salaries, heating bills and other necessary operating costs.

    “It”s kind of like we”re dying from a thousand cuts here,” Merrill said.

    The school board decided to increase taxes and adjust the number of schools to match the declining school-age population.

    “I understand completely why the district needed to take this,” Dowdle said. “I think it has some real possibilities.”

    There has been no discussion on middle and high school attendance patterns, Merrill said.

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