‘Questions and heartburn’: School Board tables proposed boundary change for 2nd time

ST. GEORGE — A proposed elementary school boundary change that has been plaguing members of the Washington County School Board was tabled a second time Tuesday due to the board wanting additional clarification on the matter.

Washington County member Craig Seegmiller expresses his doubt over approving a boundary change between Coral Canyon and Washington elementary schools, St. George, Utah, Jan. 12, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The proposed boundary change between Coral Canyon and Washington elementary school has been an issue since it initially arose in mid-November. The change would move the boundary of Washington Elementary from 1100 East to Washington Parkway, resulting in the transfer of 80 students to that school. The change would not take effect until fall 2021.

The move was seen as necessary due to the large residential growth along Washington Parkway, which has included apartment complexes. A handful of concerned parents previously voiced their opposition to the boundary change. Members of the school board shared theses sentiments Tuesday yet said their hands may otherwise be tied due to the overall factors involved.

“I have questions and heartburn,” school board member Craig Seegmiller said. “I’ve never been tempted to vote against one of these before. I know our hands are tied, but we really didn’t resolve these issues. The boundary is still the wrong boundary for a lot of those families, and we know it is.”

Following the conclusion of the school board meeting, board member Kelly Blake told St. George News that in addition to having to balance the student population between the two elementary schools, the boundary also determines which students are eligible for bus service based on a state formula.

The state formula is calculated down to 1/10 of a mile, which, once the new boundary is approved, will knock out future bus service to Coral Canyon Elementary for students within the redrawn boundary.

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

“It’s a low income area,” Blake said, “and so for them (parents) to transport their children back to Coral Canyon where they want them to be, its not in the budget, so we’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

The majority of funding for school bus service within the school district comes from the state, with the school district picking up the remaining costs, he said.

During the meeting, it was estimated that it would cost the school district between $25,000-$30,000 to provide bus service to the impacted area. Unfortunately, the school district does not have those funds on hand, Blake said, adding that there are at least seven other areas within the district that are having the same issue. If the school district tried to remedy all of those issues, it would cost the district up to $300,000, he said.

Blake said he understands the frustrations of parents who want their children to remain in the same elementary school. One of his daughters went to four different elementary schools while growing up due to the family living on the fringe of school boundaries prone to change.

“I understand very, very well,” he said.

Washington County member Kelly Blake speaks to St. George News about the proposed boundary change between Coral Canyon and Washington elementary schools, St. George, Utah, Jan. 12, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While the proposed boundary change was the subject of a public hearing, no one appeared to voice their opinion on the matter as they had in previous school board meetings. The public hearing was subsequently closed and followed by a motion to table the vote for another week.

The school board chose to table the vote due to board member Becky Dunn’s request for clarification on the state’s transportation formula – a desire shared by the rest of the school board.

“Dunn thinks there’s a discrepancy in there, some wiggle room,” Blake said. “We’re asking them (state officials) to come down and show us why there isn’t any wiggle room there.”

In other business, the school board selected Nate Esplin to be the next assistant superintendent of elementary education. He will replace Rex Wilkey, who has held the position for 25 years and will be retiring in June. Esplin currently serves as the executive director of elementary education effectiveness.

According to an email from the school district, Esplin grew up in Santa Clara, where he attended Santa Clara Elementary and later graduated from Snow Canyon High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a Master of Education degree from Southern Utah University. He also earned a doctorate in education from Utah State University.

Esplin began his education career as a fourth grade teacher at Coral Cliffs Elementary School, then spent six years as the principal of Sunset Elementary. He went on to help open Crimson View Elementary in 2013.

Teria Mortensen, the principal of Legacy Elementary, was presented with the School Administrator of the Year award by the area parent teacher association.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!