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Davis Journal

Change school boundaries? Not in my neighborhood

Jan 18, 2024 10:07AM ● By Bryan Gray

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author. 

If you want to stir up a neighborhood, mention the idea of changing school boundaries. The students might be upset, but the parents may be furious.

In some cases, the attachment to a particular school is almost tribal. Davis School Board members have seen this frequently over the past several decades. (“Darn it, my father was a Dart, my son was a Dart, and my grandson will be a Dart!)

But economics sits front and center, ahead of passion. Neighborhoods change and the need for school slots do as well. In the past months, we’ve heard the cries of Salt Lake City parents begging that four of their under-used neighborhood elementary schools not be closed. The school district was unable to budge; due to the cost of homes in Utah’s capital city, families with younger children have been priced out of the available housing market.

The same scenario could happen in Davis County too.

Yes, the county is growing, but only in a few select areas. As noted in an earlier column, Davis County’s population is projected to increase another 155,000 within the next 25 years, but most of that growth will come in the northwest side (Syracuse, Clinton, and West Point). No matter how county planners and school board members work, there’s no way to move the Great Sale Lake to the west or the Wasatch Mountains further east. Davis County is 87% developed, and there is little space to build family-oriented single-family homes in the majority of cities.

Then there is the aging factor. Bountiful, for instance, is a stable community with its fair share of retirees, as is the east side of Farmington and Centerville. These homes will eventually come up for sale, but with a high price tag shutting out young couples looking for starter homes. A working couple in their 40s may be able to purchase a $700,000 home in these areas, but at that age they won’t be bringing along young children to fill the seats in the local elementary school.

Like Salt Lake City, the school board will be facing a dilemma. In one probable scenario, the enrollment at Davis High, Bountiful High, and Viewmont High may drop along with the feeder elementary and junior high schools. Schools may have to be combined, some will be closed, and students will be transported by bus to schools in other communities.  At the same time, some west side schools could be bulging, necessitating the construction of entirely new buildings.

Technology won’t be able to solve the problem; we’ve already seen reduced test scores from students being taught in pandemic Zoom meetings. Also, with disruption in school boundaries/closures and overcrowding in other areas, I assume some parents will leave the public schools in favor of charter or private schools, further complicating the math.

The school closures in Salt Lake City may be the canary in the coal mine for Davis County. Our growing population gives us time to plan and calculate. It will be needed. 

Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.