Southern Utah News Articles
Local survey reveals 85 percent want new school downtown
Students, teachers and parents were ecstatic when a General Obligation Bond was approved by Kane County voters in November 2019 to build a new Kanab Elementary School. The current 67-year-old elementary school is busting at the seams with students and troubled with constant maintenance issues.
Once the bond was approved, the District and Kane School Board began considering two building sites, the current KES location and property the district owns in the Ranchos. Since then, a great deal of information has been gathered, yet minimal information has been widely communicated to the public. Besides the single public meeting held in February, no further effort has been made to gather public opinion.
In this technological era, providing and gathering information is simple. Surveys, e-mails, texts and social media posts can be easily created and distributed. This is a $23 million project that will directly affect students and parents for the next 60 years.
A group of 12 parents desiring to understand the Board’s information guiding the site selection process felt parent concerns were not being heard and addressed, and decided to try and quickly gather additional information before the School Board’s scheduled date of decision regarding the site for the new school building.
The school board is scheduled to make their official vote at a board meeting on July 21, at 7 p.m., to determine which site will be chosen. Before that meeting, we want our opinions and voices to be heard by our school board representatives.
The Board Member Code of Ethics states: “I will strive to ensure that people are accurately informed about our schools, and I will try to interpret to the staff the aspirations of the community for its schools. I will confine my board action to policy making, planning and appraisal, and I will help to frame policies and plans only after the board has consulted those who will be affected by them.”
Both proposed sites have major drawbacks. The existing site is small (approx. seven acres) and construction would have to be done while school continues in the existing building. However, a great deal of infrastructure surrounding the property is already in place and the convenience to downtown amenities and proximity to other schools is desirable. The Ranchos site is larger (approx. 13 acres) and there are no structures to work around during construction. However, the roads are not suitable for heavy traffic or pedestrians, which will result in increased busing and require Kanab City to spend several million in tax dollars to make necessary upgrades.
We have proposed that another site be researched and considered. The old reservoir property, located on 400 South, between 175 East and 350 East, was suggested during the public meeting in February. Those interested in this possibility assumed that the School Board would take the suggestion from the meeting and conduct some due-diligence by looking into the site. Nothing was done to consider the property because it was assumed to have poor soil and not enough public interest, even though no effort was made to gauge public interest regarding the site.
The Kane County Water Conservancy District has communicated to us, and the president of the School Board, that they would be willing to facilitate a trade for school district property. A soils test completed on the reservoir property in October 2018 revealed no soil issues any greater than there are with the soils in the Ranchos or at the existing school location.
The School Board is not currently considering this site. However, we still offered it as an option in our survey to see if it would, in fact, gain public interest. We feel this could be a valid option to essentially get the “best of both worlds.” The majority of the respondents to our survey would like to see the school remain in town. If the existing school site cannot meet the needs of the new school, then the reservoir site may be a viable option. The reservoir site is approximately 40 percent larger than the Ranchos site and would keep the school in a central location near the other schools and other downtown amenities. The site also has five access roads.
We decided to present all of these options in a survey because, when asked, the superintendent said the district had no plans to conduct any surveys and that we were free to conduct one on our own.
We provide this information from the survey not to divide and raise contention, but to open up avenues of information and communication with our elected officials who represent us in this major decision. We hope that if a third site needs to be considered, the District will spend another month or two to do more research.
We are so excited and grateful for a new school. We have heard multiple teachers say that if it takes a little longer to build the right school in the right location, “We can wait!”
It is clearly evident from the survey that there is very little support for the school to be built on the Ranchos site. As can be seen in the accompanying charts, only 25 percent of those living in the Ranchos want the new school to be located there. On a community wide basis the support for the Ranchos location drops to only 15 percent.
Our committee encourages everyone to contribute their voice to the survey. For that reason, the survey will remain open through Sunday, July 19. Our purpose is sincere. We simply want the Board to have the most complete information to make the most informed decision possible. A summary will be prepared and presented to the school board during the July 21 meeting. The survey can be accessed at bit.ly/kes-site.
Submitted by a committee consisting of Andrea and Daniel Gilberg, Lexie and Randy Little, Emily Koelliker, Cassie and Chris Heaton, Becca Glover, Sam LeFevre, Elizabeth Davis, Kim Veater and Matt Brown.