1. You support quality education for our students.
2. You support strong, livable neighborhoods across Provo.
3. You support the wise use of tax funds — both school and city funds.
4. You feel the school district should listen to the will of the people.
5. You care about clean air and sustainable growth in the community.
6. You are concerned with the mega-school trend.
7. You want traditional public schools to remain competitive with charter schools.
8. You are concerned about the ability of low-income students to get to school.
9. You don’t want Provo to repeat the mistakes of other cities which lead to urban blight.
10. You don’t want more traffic and more congestion.
Read on for context and sources:
#1: Old buildings don’t equate to poor education – just ask the Ivy League. Large lots don’t equate to good education. Taken together, #2, #6, #7, and #8, make a strong case why students at Dixon Middle School and across the District will have a better education if the School is rebuilt on site.
#2: Decaying, blighted areas anywhere in Provo negatively impacts all of Provo. They particularly affect the School District, which depends on property taxes to educate our children. Older neighborhoods, with small lots, often generate more property tax per acre than more affluent areas. But if they become blighted, they can become a drag on the whole city and a burden to the School District. Provo is blessed with many different areas with their own distinct character. West Provo is a wonderful place to live and has several advantages. Central Provo is also a wonderful place to live and has several different advantages. Many people choose to live in west Provo to get away from the hustle and bustle – to get away from it all. Many people choose to live in central Provo to be in close proximity to their daily destinations – to be in the middle of it all. This explains why most people near the Dixon site don’t want to see the school leave and most people near the Footprinters site don’t want to see it come. The vast majority of people who live near both sites are against the move. West Provo will continue to attract families as it develops, even without a middle school located at Footprinters. Will central Provo still be able to attract families with higher prices for older, smaller homes if the main benefits of living in central Provo are taken away? In this Deseret News Editorial Board essay1, they argue that the best way to fight the urban decay seen around the country is to attract families into the urban core. The best way to attract families is with family-friendly infrastructure, they say. Schools are the ultimate family-friendly infrastructure.
#3: Because the City and the District share the same boundaries, it doesn’t matter which entity pays for an expense, it costs us the same. It will cost the District the same to rebuild Dixon onsite or relocate the middle school to the Footprinters site. But it will NOT cost Provo City the same. The School District made a big deal about how Provo High would cost the same whether it was rebuilt on-site or relocated. What was never considered or fully accounted for was the added costs to the City. In a June 11th, 2019 committee meeting, the Provo City Engineer estimated that the price tag for the road infrastructure to accommodate the Provo High relocation was $15,000,000 and growing. And that’s just for roads! New infrastructure will similarly be needed if Dixon Middle School is relocated. This isn’t shown in the School District’s presentations, but that doesn’t mean it will cost you any less. And don’t forget that if the school is moved, a historic but failing building will be left behind. How long will it sit vacant until they are ready to spend the millions of dollars to repurpose it?
#4: The people of Provo support public education. In 2014, more than 70% of voters approved a $108M PSCD bond2. The people approved of the District’s plan and were willing to fund it. But by 2019, public support for the PCSD plan had collapsed. They proposed a bond that included the relocation of Dixon Middle School to the edge of development. This time voters said “NO!” by a 2:1 margin3. Many voters had felt betrayed by the surprise decision to move Provo High, something that wasn’t discussed when proposing the 2014 bond. In 2020, the public again voiced their displeasure with the direction of the School District, and their crusade to relocate Dixon Middle School, by electing two new School Board members over the incumbents who were running for re-election. The public does not support the direction of the current School Board and does not support relocating Dixon Middle School. This was evident in the School District’s public information meetings regarding Dixon Middle School over the past year. Now the District is pursuing an obscure bonding method that doesn’t require a vote of the public. This is the same method that the District threatened to use if the public didn’t approve the 2020 bond vote to rebuild Timpview High (on-site). “This means that the board will borrow the money at a higher interest rate to rebuild the school if this bond does not pass. So please vote for this bond because it will keep our children safe and will reduce the amount we end up paying in taxes.”4 Well now, in 2021, the School Board isn’t even attempting to take the question of relocating Dixon Middle School to the voters, they are just jumping to the same method that they warned us of if we didn’t approve their 2020 bond request. The people of Provo don’t want Dixon moved, but the School Board and District aren’t listening.
#5: The tendency of school districts across the country to make short-sighted decisions to move schools existing in established neighborhoods out to the edge of development has been identified over the decades as one of the worst contributors to sprawl growth and as a devastation to older historic neighborhoods. Taking schools out of walkable neighborhoods and putting them on the edge of town in more auto-centric neighborhoods also causes more driving for everyone.
#6: PCSD has stated that the optimal size of middle schools is between 800 and 900 students. The national consensus5 is that middle schools should have “no more than 500 students.” Centennial Middle School was built in 1996 with a capacity of 600 students. It now has an enrollment of around 1200 students. The proposed rebuild of a relocated Dixon Middle School will be built for 1200 students. Proponents who want to relocate the middle school praise the site for giving room to expand in the future. Just how big do we want our schools to get? We can rebuild Dixon onsite, and then build a new middle school near Footprinters park in the future when it is justified by new students. Smaller schools are more expensive per student but less expensive per graduate, a clear indication of the improved quality and value in education offered by smaller schools6. Not only that, but “small schools are safer, have higher teacher retention rates, have higher parent involvement, greater academic success, and produce more active citizens.”6
#7: Charter schools have their place, but we need the School District to offer good traditional school options. When the District schools are inconvenient, particularly to children in families that have a limited ability to drop off and pick up their kids, charter schools become a more attractive option, diverting more students, and taking their per-pupil State funding with them.
#8: Students from low-income, often single-parent families are more likely to face challenges getting to and from school. Parents may be working multiple jobs or may lack automobiles. The ability to walk to school is more than just a convenience for these students. Come observe all the students who drop their younger siblings off at Timpanogos Elementary before walking to Dixon Middle, then pick them up after school. After-school activities present a particular challenge to many low-income students who live outside of a reasonable walking distance. Buses – even late ones – don’t compare with the flexibility of being able to walk to school.
#9: Baltimore, Seattle, and San Francisco are great American cities named in the Deseret News Editorial Board’s essay1 for having dystopian urban cores. If you think that Provo too should have a blighted core, then there is probably no better step to achieving this than relocating Dixon Middle School. The Deseret News calls for prioritizing “family-friendly infrastructure projects” in order to revitalize urban cores. Disinvestment of family-friendly infrastructure like schools surely is the prescription, then, for following the path of other American cities to get a ghetto of our own.
#10: Case in point, Exhibit A: The nightmare every morning and afternoon around the new Provo High location (compared with the old, central location) faced by students, parents, and neighbors alike. Cars clog the roads around Provo High and back up, sometimes as far away as Geneva Road. Do we really want to repeat that mistake?
5 Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl. NPS, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Smart Growth. (https://www.americantrails.org/files/pdf/whyjohnnywalkschool.pdf)