School Siting and Childhood Independence

“Today’s kids has lost their freedom to roam and have become dependent on their parents to literally get anywhere at all. This didn’t just happen, it was a result of a series of choices to build our cities and towns around the needs of cars instead of kids and people.”

See this PDF to view a walkable 1-mile radius from each proposed school site. The current is within a walkable distance of a much larger portion of the boundaries than the proposed site.

Keep Dixon in Dixon!

Photo from New Jersey Safe Routes to School

The Hidden Costs of Building Out West, pt. II

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?

Students within the yellow area *may* not be eligible for busing.

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.

Riding from Dixon to Footprinter Park
Data comes from walkscore.com

Increased Driving

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

A drive from Dixon to Footprinter Park is about two miles.

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

The lighter the color, the lower the median household 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.

Current Dixon bus routes

Conclusion

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.

Three Middle Schools?

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.

What is now Provo Peaks Elementary used to be Provo’s third middle school, Farrer Jr. High.

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?).

Dixon has the perfect location for a central middle school.

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!

The Parking “Issue”

In a recent post, we mentioned that Utah recommends that its middle schools be sited on at least 20 acres. Much of that land is used for parking that is only used during big school events. The rest of the time, it’s money and land spent on something unnecessary.

We went to Dixon and Centennial on Tuesday, March 26 to count how much of the provided parking is used on an average day. Here’s what we found:

  • At 1:15pm at Dixon Middle, 53/68 parking spaces were full (78%)
  • At 1:35pm at Centennial Middle, 84/152 parking spaces were full (55%)

This means that both schools have more than enough parking needed for average daily use. Dixon also doesn’t need as much as Centennial because of its location in a dense, walkable area of the city.

Event “Overflow” Parking

There are several times per month when Dixon could use additional parking. I’ll refer to this as overflow parking. Here are some options:

  1. Overflow parking could be back-in angled parking on the street. If wrapped around the entire Dixon campus, this would provide about 90 parking spaces, 25% more than parallel parking.

2. Overflow parking could be green space. This would allow it to be used for other things when not car parking.

3. Overflow parking could be located off-site. Timpanogos Elementary has a large parking lot and is only two blocks away from Dixon. There is a church to the east of Dixon that–with negotiation–could possibly serve as overflow parking, also. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allows UTA to use some of their lots in Salt Lake County for park and ride. The Church also shares one of its parking lots with The University of Utah.

Our point is that there are creative solutions to provide overflow parking without paving over space that could be used better for other things 300 days of the year.

The Wisest Option

FFKR Architecture’s Option One

The feasibility studies offer a lot of options to the school district. Options include rehabilitating the old school, replacing inefficient and insignificant add-ons, building a new school on-site and sharing the land with the school district administration, and building on a new site.

We believe FFKR’s Option One is the wisest option for Provo School District. Here’s why:

  • It would keep Dixon in Dixon
  • It would replace all add-ons after 1931 with 130,000 square feet of beautiful new school
  • It would preserve the 1931 historic section and keep it in use by Dixon Middle
  • It would cost Provo School District roughly the same as a new west-side school up front ($55m vs $52m) and be cheaper in the long run because of decreased maintenance of fields, parking lots, and potentially more bus miles traveled (although same number of buses)
  • It would preserve quite a bit of open space for physical education
  • It would leave the Footprinters Park site open for a future third middle school as the population grows. Centennial’s student body is already above the recommended size (1,119 and growing) and Dixon will get there someday (835 and growing). Both a densifying core Provo and a developing west Provo will increase student enrollment. See population growth numbers here.
  • At between 9 acres (if you count the parking lot easement and sidewalks/park strips) and 7.33 acres (if you count just the land Provo School District owns), it would keep Dixon within the LEED for Neighborhood Development-recommended 10 acre-maximum standard for middle schools
  • It would keep Dixon in a walkable and densely-populated area, decreasing the need for massive parking lots that are only actually full during the biggest events of the year (see Provo High)
  • It is the recommended on-site option from PCI’s feasibility study summary

Check out the details below and check out the full feasibility studies here.

How You Can Help

We’re gonna need an army of activists.

If you want to keep Dixon in Dixon, we need your help. We have to convince the school board to rebuild Dixon Middle on-site. The school board will be putting a bond up for public vote this year; we need them to specify that it will be kept on-site in that bond language. If not, we vote against it.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Attend the final public meeting about the 2019 Provo School District Bond on Tuesday, March 26 at 7pm at Rock Canyon Elementary. Say why you want to keep Dixon in Dixon.
  2. Email members of the school board. Jim Pettersson is assigned to Dixon but it doesn’t hurt to send a quick message to them all.
  3. Vote yes on a bond that rebuilds Dixon on-site. Vote no on a bond that moves it.
  4. Tell your friends and neighbors! You can even just share this website on your social media.

The Hidden Costs of Building Out West

EDIT – Provo School District later told us that they would pay the cost of infrastructure to the Footprinter site.

The school board was told through feasibility studies that building off-site would be cheaper for the school district than rebuilding on-site by about 10% or $5 million. However, it may not be cheaper for the taxpayer. That is because building on the Footprinters Park site would require a vast amount of infrastructural upgrades that Provo City (via Provo City’s taxpayers) would have to pay for.

The Footprinters Park site is currently agricultural land. Note the happy goats and horses in the photo.

A build on the west side would need at least the following infrastructural upgrades:

1. Curb and Gutter Upgrades. There is currently sidewalk on only half of 1100W which would be a major route to the school. Many people would turn right where that tree casts a shadow. A quick walk around this area will show you that the sidewalks are not even close to complete as those in Dixon.
2. Road Construction. What you see here is 890 South. It could be one of the entrances to the school. It’s mostly gravel and not wide enough for two cars to pass each other (only 12 feet). At best they’d pave over some of the park and move utility lines to widen the road and at worst they’d have to purchase land from neighboring residents. Also, if Provo City has to connect 1600 West to Lakeview Parkway, there’s at least another million dollars.

3. Sewer Upgrades. There is currently a freeze on development on the west side because the sewer infrastructure is not yet sufficient to meet demand.

4. Culinary Water. Water lines would have to be put in to provide sufficient water for a school.

Bonus: Ongoing costs to repave a massive parking lot every ten years and continuously water and maintain additional landscaping on a 20-acre site.

What would the cost of infrastructural upgrades be?

We’re not really sure, but it cost Provo City between $5 million and $7 million to build the infrastructure to Provo High. That would make building on the west side more expensive than rebuilding on-site in the end.

But the infrastructure has to go in eventually, right?

If people want to live there, yes. However, those costs are usually footed by developers who pass it on to home buyers. In the end, it’s the homeowners who pay for the costs through increased home prices.

Building off-site will likely be more expensive to the taxpayer than building on-site. Just another reason to keep Dixon in Dixon!