‘A challenge for everyone’: Washington County School Board approves some boundary changes, tables one

ST. GEORGE —Following a previous Washington County School Board meeting in November that introduced proposed boundary changes, the school board voted Tuesday night to approve all proposed boundary changes except one, which they tabled for a month for further investigation.

Larry Bergeson, superintendent for the Washington County School District, listens to a discussion during a board meeting following the opening prayer, St. George, Utah, Dec. 8, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

During the public hearings held Tuesday for both the proposed secondary boundary change and elementary boundary change, seven members of the public spoke to the board.

For the proposed boundary change between Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills high schools, Erica Cline said she was there representing the Desert Canyons community, which she said included “hundreds and hundreds” of people who were all opposed to the changed.

“In the four years that I’ve lived there, we are now going on five elementary changes. It’s really hard when you have students with disabilities and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) to have that many boundary changes.”

She said for her older children, this will be their third change, and she wanted to know why they “always get switched so much compared to other communities.”

Chris Benson, a father of three, also spoke in opposition to this proposed change. His concern was primarily with his son being pulled away from his football team.

“I was told the last time … that we didn’t foresee a change coming in the near future, and that’s tough,” he said.

David Stirland, board president, said that with the continuous growth of the county, boundary changes are unavoidable.

“When you’re building on average an elementary school a year, almost, in the 4 or 5 years … it’s a challenge for everyone,” he said, adding that they really try to consider every scenario and make the best decision. “I hope the public understands this. These are difficult for everyone.”

The board unanimously voted to approve this boundary change.

This map illustrates the proposed boundary change between Coral Canyon Elementary and Washington Elementary schools, location and date unspecified | Image courtesy of the Washington County School District, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Five parents showed up to speak in opposition to the boundary change between Washington Elementary and Coral Canyon Elementary, which primarily effects kids and their families who live in the Pine Valley Townhomes. The need for this boundary change, the board said, is to redistribute student populations in preparation for new developments in Washington.

Nacolynn Tanielu, a mother whose child attends Coral Canyon Elementary and who also spoke at the Nov. 10 meeting regarding her feelings with the proposed changes, said her main concern dealt with removing the diversity from Coral Canyon and adding more to an already diverse school.

She said the first time she was hired as a substitute teacher, she taught at Washington Elementary, where she was surprised with how diverse the school was.

“It’s not good for us to put a majority of students – a majority of minority students – into one elementary, which is what Washington Elementary is,” she said. “It would just be making that even worse. I know that it’s not something intentionally done, but that’s what’s happening here.”

By changing the boundary, she said she worries much of the diversity will be lost at Coral Canyon Elementary.

“Just by having my daughter in there is teaching other kids about people that are different than them. She did a Native American Hoop Dance one time in school,” she said, adding that that’s probably the first time many of the kids had every seen anything like that. “We take that out of school, and we’re not representing people all across the board.”

Amy Barton, a first grade teacher at Coral Canyon and Utah Education Association director, said that the parents from Pine Valley Townhomes are “speaking truth to power.”

Washington County School District board member Becky Dunn (right) listens to parents speak about their concerns about the proposed boundary changes, St. George, Utah, Dec. 8, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“They are amazing parents. It will be devastating to our school to lose them and their kids. They’ve been with us since the school opened,” she said. “Those families are a critical core component to our school community. They do bring the diversity … Those are the moms that show up.”


She added that the parents who spoke during the meeting are the ones she can personally count on when her classroom is in need of something.

“They’re the working parents, and they’re the parents who are still students at Dixie State, and they’re still the ones who show up for us, and we will miss them greatly,” she said.

Rex Wilkey, assistant superintendent for elementary education, along with several other board members, said the issue essentially comes down to transportation and proximity to the schools. However, board member Becky Dunn brought up that there were some discrepancies in how the measurements are made. This concern was discussed and left somewhat unresolved, as the measurements have to be calculated in a specific way in accordance to state code.

The board ultimately decided to table this item for a month. Board member Terry Hutchinson said he was going to contact the state and further investigate the transportation issue.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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