Provo School District’s board will be meeting today to decide on the details of the 2019 school bond. The meeting will be from 5pm to 7pm with public comment at 7pm. We invite you all to join us at 6:50pm at the district offices for public comment. Please wear Dixon Middle dark blue to show your support.
Thank you so much for all you have done to rally around our historic Dixon Middle School. The board will announce its decision on the bond on Tuesday April 23. If you are a Provo resident, please email the board right now by either writing your own* or copying and pasting the message below.
*If you have the time, we prefer that you write your own message. If you live outside the downtown area, please note that, as well.
Dear Provo District School Board members,
I am writing as a Provo resident and voter to request that the bond include an on-site Dixon Middle School. I believe Dixon in its current location will best serve our students, district, and city for reasons that include:
1) While I understand the flexibility the larger site offers, I do not find the ability to expand to be a desirable quality, as I prefer the size to be capped by its initial capacity of about 1,200 students.
2) There may be a slightly higher number of students who can walk to the new site, but its walkability would be prohibitive due to the poor Safe Routes infrastructure of the area.
3) The existing site supports the vulnerable families in the area that depend on its walkability, from picking up siblings at nearby Timpanogos (the highest low-income school in the district), to getting home when sick.
A friend of ours, Jamie Littlefield, wrote an article for Strongtowns that talks about the school board’s idea to move Dixon Middle away from central Provo.
“Now that my city’s downtown area is starting to thrive, we’re facing a new problem: the suburbs are trying to “steal” the best parts of downtown and move them to the outskirts. In the last several years, Provo, Utah has dealt with a barrage of attempts to move centrally-located public facilities to unwalkable, suburban (and even undeveloped) areas.”
Check out this video and write-up Provo City’s Landmarks Commission did on Dixon Middle:
“A unique treasure in Provo history, Dixon Middle School dates back to the years prior to the Depression. The school honors the Henry Aldous Dixon pioneer family, who served many within the Provo community. Joseph Nelson, one of area’s premiere architects, designed the original structure, with its brick gables and distinctive stonework battlements. His design philosophy can readily be seen in this building–a message of tradition, power, and respect for education.”
On Saturday, April 13, we organized a free community potluck lunch to celebrate Dixon Middle and educate people about the importance of keeping it. We got somewhere between 100 and 150 adults and children, most coming from nearby downtown neighborhoods. Nearly all in attendance signed the petition encouraging Provo City School District’s Board of Education to keep Dixon on-site. Many people talked about how their parents and grandparents attended school at Dixon and would hate to see it moved.
In a previous post, we listed some of the infrastructural upgrades Provo School District would have to do to operate on the Footprinter Park site. Facilities director Mark Wheeler told us later that many of those infrastructural costs were factored into the $55 million estimate to build on that site. So we stand corrected.
However, we still believe that a west-side option would still actually be cheaper for the taxpayer.A west-side middle school would also disproportionately hurt the poor. That’s because many parents within the two-mile radius who *may* be ineligible for busing may start driving their kids more, costing more than the increase of taxes from a $10m difference in construction cost.
What would it take to walk or bike to school within that two-mile radius?
A student living in the Dixon, Timpanogos, or Franklin areas would have to cross railroad tracks and an interstate. Because there are only a few ways to cross those, they may have to walk or bike a longer distance, using busier roads that cross the tracks and interstate.
According to Dixon staff, Dixon now has over 300 students that bike or walk to school every day. The streets are lined with trees, parked cars, and grassy medians that put pedestrians far away from moving cars. The sidewalks are complete and on every street.
But the Footprinter Park site looks much different. Some streets don’t yet have sidewalk. If there are sidewalks, there are no tree-lined medians. Many parents would feel uncomfortable sending their children by foot or bike if the school were moved. Many within the 2-mile radius may end up driving instead.
Cost of Driving vs. Increased Taxes
If I were a resident living near Dixon Middle (within the two-mile radius) and chose to drive my child to school, I’d drive about four miles a day getting them there and back, two times a day. How much would that cost me?
8 miles a day x 180 days = 1440 miles
1440 miles x $.50 per mile = $720 per year
And what would an increase of $10 million in school construction cost in taxes? At the Rock Canyon Elementary meeting we learned that a $100k homeowner would pay just $1 more over the course of three years (or $.30 per year) for every $1.7m in bond price. So a $10m difference means an increase of just $11 paid over three years (or $4 per year) for a $200k homeowner.
Cost of Driving Would Disproportionately Affect Low-income
As seen on this US Census map, households within the Dixon, North Park, Timpanogos, Franklin, and Franklin South areas–all within Dixon boundaries–have lower median incomes than those west of the interstate. These are also the parents who are likely to start driving their kids to school because of the unsafe routes.
“But don’t we ask west-siders to make that journey?”
All students west of I-15 are currently eligible for busing. They aren’t expected to get to school on their own. We also hope that in 2030, when we will need three middle schools, that there will be one at the Footprinter Park site to serve those west of I-15.
Would you rather pay $4 per year in increased taxes or $720 per year to drive your kid to school? I think I know what a single mom or family with two working parents would choose.
By keeping Dixon in Dixon, we help the poorest families in our city save time and money. Save Dixon and build out west when the time is right.
The population of Utah County is estimated to double by 2050; you’ve heard it before. But what does that mean for Provo School District? We believe Provo School District should be planning now for a future third middle school (not a Dixon replacement) on the Footprinter Park site. We’ve had one before and we will need one soon.
Provo’s middle schools will soon surpass ideal population size.
Most Utah middle schools shoot for a population between 800 and 1,100. We’ve been told by Mark Wheeler (facilities director) that Provo School District plans for a maximum of 1,100 students at its middle schools; any more than that and it becomes difficult for administration to manage. In a previous post, we wrote that Dixon had 835 students in 2017 and Centennial had 1,119 in 2017. Rachel Luke, of Centennial’s PTA, says that it has 1,182 kids this year and is projected to have 1,260 next year. It’s already above Provo School District’s ideal maximum.
Growth estimates point to the need for a third middle school.
Provo resident and former Orem City Planner Kirby Snideman used estimates from the US Census American Community Survey, Provo School District, and Utah State Board of Education to find that Provo Middle School Enrollment could be 2,516 in 2030. Spread that out over three middle schools and you’ve got manageable a student body population of 836 each. Perfect; it sets up Provo School District well to manage future growth, too.
We will need a third middle school by 2030 and the Footprinter Park site is the place for it.
In a previous post, we pointed out the faults with the current site, including lack of sidewalks, a freeze on construction due to insufficient sewer infrastructure, and lack of dense residential development currently surrounding the site. The area is not yet ready for a school. Plus, Dixon is perfectly-located in the center of the city and would serve the population much better than two west-side middle schools if PCSD were to abandon it and have to build two 20-acre middle schools in west Provo (where else could you find 20 acres if that’s your standard?).
Our recommendation to the school board is to purchase the Footprinter Park site now and wait to build a third middle school when the conditions there are more amenable to building and operating a school. If we lose Dixon now, it will never come back and the school district would likely have to build two middle schools out west instead. Save Dixon!