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Race to the ballot is on for Alpine School District split

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After years of deliberation and a now concluded study by Florida-based MGT Consulting, the largest school district in the state with 85,000 students, the Alpine School District (ASD) is facing an imminent decision on a district split. The district has been at the center of discussions surrounding its structure and organization. With the study's conclusion, stakeholders face crucial choices that will shape the future of education in the region, and the race to the November ballot is on.

The study, which started in the fall of 2023, included presenting six viable reconfiguration plans to ASD staff and the public during three open house forums earlier this year. On Tuesday night, MGT Consulting recommended to the ASD Board that they put forth a two-way district split on the ballot. The recommendation acknowledged that while the district currently provides a quality education to its students, according to most parents, there remains a desire among the community to have a say in the district's future at the ballot box. 

“By and large, everyone believes the district is doing a good job educating kids, but they still endorse a ballot vote,” said MGT representative Lance Richards during Tuesday's meeting. 

According to the MGT study, while the majority of stakeholders, including parents and taxpayers, support the idea of voting on a split this year, district employees have expressed opposition.

With recently passed SB221 taking effect on May 1, time is of the essence, and a race to the ballot is on.

SB221 provides four routes for a potential district split: through the school district, a city or municipality, a citizen initiative, or an interlocal agreement between neighboring municipalities. The choice of route significantly impacts the voting process. If ASD initiates the split, all affected voters within the district must approve the change with a majority overall. However, if it arises from a city or interlocal agreement, only residents within the proposed new district vote on the proposal.

The Alpine School District Board of Education has not indicated when they plan to announce their preferred split option but have discussed option two and option three as the most likely choices from the board.

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“A majority of survey respondents wanted Lehi to go west, but those in the Skyridge and Lehi High School clusters responded that they want Lehi to go east,” said Richards.

Meanwhile, cities have been franticly coordinating interlocal options behind the scenes.

Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, Cedar Fort, and Fairfield are preparing to file an interlocal agreement to establish a western district during their May 7 City Council meetings. If filed first, this move could preempt ASD's preferred reconfiguration from reaching the ballot.

Lehi City officials will also convene next Tuesday to discuss joining forces with Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills to the east. Meanwhile, American Fork remains undecided, expressing hesitancy in joining any interlocal agreement at this time.

“This is becoming too political, and Amercian Fork is going to take a stance that we believe strongly that even though interlocal’s are a tool that has been granted to us by the state of Utah, we don't have to use every tool. From American Fork City Council and the residents, we want to empower you to make the right decision and make that decision yours. You have all the data. I know you're good people and you will make the right decision. Don't let city government take this decision away from you,” said American Fork Mayor Brad Frost during Tuesday's ASD board meeting. 

For an ASD split to be on this year's 2024 General Election ballot, the entire process must be started by mid-May and completed by the district, city, or an interlocal agreement by August 15.

If voters approve a district split on this year's November ballot, the new school district or districts will begin education service on July 1, 2027. The new school district boards would be elected in or around July 2025 and spend the following two years addressing asset distribution, policies, and staffing.

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