07 February 2011

What's the best school in Tooele County? What day is it?

One of the first questions we are asked by someone moving to Tooele County is, "how are the schools"? That's an easy answer, having raised six kids in this school system. The schools are great. The problem becomes what to say when they ask which ones are the best,and where they should buy.

The Tooele County School District covers a huge geographical area, from Lakepoint to Wendover and south to Vernon, as well as schools in Dugway and Ibabpah in the west desert. However, most of the folks we deal with are in the "triangle" created by Stansbury Park on the north, Grantsville to the west and Tooele to the south. 

All the schools are great. But with the explosive growth we've had in Tooele County over the last decade comes huge growth in the number of kids in the schools. We've built lots of new schools over the last few years, but that only takes care of one of the problems. Today's problem has to do with school boundaries. 

It seems over the last few years that the Tooele County School Board has been drawing these things in pencil. They change almost yearly, it seems. Two years ago, when Stansbury High School opened, they changed them again, understandably. Now they are changing them again. Because of so much growth in Stansbury Park, SPHS is already over capacity, while there is still available room at Tooele High School. I'm not sure how much open enrollment has to do with that, but the battle is brewing between the group that believes you just keep all the kids together with the same kids they came out of elementary school with, no matter the expense (portable classrooms, buses, higher classification in sports resulting in more travel, etc), and the group that believes that you must fill all the available school space before you start overloading one.

So, why does it matter? As a kid that never went to the same school for more than two years until high school, I know it's possible to excel even when you are changing schools and even peers. However, I heard a quote from one of the kids at Stansbury comparing the kids to bouncing balls. 

Here's the deal that some of the parents may not get. It has to do with money, as usual. In Utah, 100% of our income tax, and a fair portion of our property tax go to education. We already spend more of our income on education than most states, even if you don't have kids in the system. That's a great investment, no doubt. But in this day and age economically, I expect my School Board members to be responsible about how my tax dollars are spent. I have a hard time swallowing the cost of portable classrooms at one school when another school 7 miles away has room, especially as you are going to bus many of them anyway. I especially have a hard time with it when I realize that because of those portables, actual programs have to suffer or be lost because there is no money to pay for them.

What's the answer? Some people are asking for more taxes. I don't believe in raising taxes until every thing else that can be done to maximize our current dollars is done. I don't think we're there yet. A head tax? Not going to happen in this State. So, it looks like the School Board needs to sharpen its pencil. I'm just glad that here in Tooele County, the kids will ultimately win, because we already have great schools, my son's report card notwithstanding...

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