Declining Enrollment Evaluations Begin in Emery County

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By Julie Johansen

Over the past two decades, overall student populations in the Emery School District have been declining, making it necessary to evaluate the alignment of classes. The total number for students in 1998 was 3,101 and, as of this year, it has dropped to 2,050 students. The Emery School District held town hall meetings to receive public input regarding three possibilities the district is currently considering.

The possibilities include option one, which is maintaining current school alignments with funding allocated on school enrollment. This could result in split classes. Option two is the use of K-2/3-5 elementary school model where separate grade levels are consolidated into separate buildings, i.e. Castle Dale with Cottonwood and Cleveland with Huntington. Or option three, which is the consolidation of schools, meaning elementary schools are combined into fewer buildings, thereby closing some buildings.

The district stated all of these possibilities are evaluated with funding and educational impact in mind. At the town hall meetings, Emery School District Superintendent Ryan Maughan showed current enrollment numbers compared to 2018.

In the secondary schools, the numbers for Canyon View Middle School are at 202 with a 20% decrease, San Rafael Middle School at 240 students with a 16% decline, Emery High School has 648 students with a 4% decrease, and Green River High has 70 students with a 10% decline. The projected enrollment for 2029 in secondary schools is 1,011, losing 143 students. This makes a 12% district-wide decrease in secondary schools.

In the elementary schools, Book Cliff is at 113 students with a 20% increase, Castle Dale is at 143 with a 12% decrease, Cleveland has 147 with a 10% increase, Cottonwood is at 118 with a 13% decrease, Ferron at 182 with a 9% decrease, and Huntington at 211, which is a 20% decrease.

The projected enrollment for 2029 is 820, which is a loss of 94 students in elementary. This results in a 10% district-wide decline in elementary schools. Schools are funded by Weighted Pupil Units (WPUs), meaning the number of enrolled students, which makes it necessary to consider new possibilities.

Losing Necessary Existent Small School (NESS) funding is also a consideration when consolidating schools. Currently, Book Cliff, Cottonwood and Cleveland Elementary receive this funding.

Following Superintendent Maughan’s presentation, the audiences were asked for questions, suggestions or remarks. One question was regarding busing schedules and routes. Superintendent Maughan replied that is definitely a concern and is the district’s responsibility.

Busing expenses versus instructional costs were also questioned. These are separate budget items. The comment was made that most city (county) libraries are close to schools and would be greatly affected if a school is closed. When asked what services are at risk because of the decline in numbers, the answer was a resounding, ”instructional services.”

Next, there was concern about families having students in different schools in the K-2/3-5 model, including the possibility of siblings being spread across multiple locations. The schools would be sister schools and coordination would be necessary, the board answered.

The conversation continued with concerns from teachers about placement, grade levels changes and class size number. Concerns were also voiced regarding special education and resource as well as enrichments in teaching. Funding is tied to these levels and would continue in each circumstance.

When asked why is this being considered now, the answer was that the awareness has been there for some time. The economic value of a school to the community was also discussed.

The district replied that no decisions have been made at this time, only considerations and a desire for public input.

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