If Morgan voters were to decide a $32 million school bond now, the measure would likely pass, according to recent survey results. The survey will be available online through the end of the year.
Morgan School District officials are surveying the public while ramping up efforts to put a bond on the November 2017 ballot. If passed, the owner of a $300,000 home in the county would see a yearly tax increase of $180. So far, over 1,000 people have taken the 20-question survey available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/morganschooldistrict.
Overall, almost 80 percent of survey respondents said that they would “definitely” and “probably” vote for the bond election. Almost 90 percent of survey respondents said they would favor construction of a two-story classroom addition and new kitchen at Morgan High School. Almost 85 percent said they favor construction of a new middle school for grades 5 to 8 in Mountain Green.
Respondents so far have been mostly female, residents of either Mountain Green and Morgan City, non-school district employees, and parents of Morgan students.
A majority of respondents believe Morgan teachers earn too little, overcrowding is a serious district issue, class sizes should not be increased, portable classrooms should be used to accommodate growth, and year-round and double session scheduling should not be used. Respondents also indicated that they may be interested in online courses for Morgan students, which would decrease physical classroom space demands.
The survey allowed respondents the ability to leave their comments, and district officials are reading every single one.
“The comments are interesting, and all across the board,” Superintendent Doug Jacobs said.
Many comments share the opinion that adding a new middle school for Mountain Green residents would further divide the county, where historically every public school student has attended the same elementary, middle or high school as every other student in the county. Adding a second elementary school in 2008 started a noticeable divide that has been difficult for some students to navigate when they all come together in the same middle school in sixth grade, according to some survey comments.
To unify the school district, some commenters proposed the use of an “intermediate school” model where fifth and sixth graders attend one school while seventh and eighth graders attend another. The new school in Mountain Green could be one of these intermediate schools, while the existing Morgan Middle School could be the other, some commenters said. Others were worried about putting fifth graders in the same school with eighth graders, as currently being contemplated by district officials.
On the other hand, other comments say having a new school close to the area where new growth is occurring—Mountain Green—would be more convenient. One respondent suggested having the new school act as Mountain Green’s locale for educating that area’s sixth through 12th grade students.
Some respondents said that they would not like to see Mountain Green students enjoy newly constructed schools while the students in Morgan City continue to occupy older, more deteriorating buildings. There was a sentiment that the bond should have “something for everyone.”
Another common survey response was the desire to build an entirely new high school. If a new high school were built, the old high school could serve as a middle or junior high, one respondent suggested. Another suggested the Mountain Green middle school be built large to accommodate all district middle schoolers while the old middle school be used as an extension of the high school.
However, Jacobs said the district not only lacks the land on which to build a new high school, but the district cannot bond for enough money to build one. District Business Administrator D’Lynn Poll said based on the most recent county assessed values, the district can only bond up to $42 million. Jacobs said a new high school would cost between $50 million and $60 million.
Some survey comments warned district officials of a tarnished reputation tied to past failed bond attempts. They asked officials to be very specific with where new money would be spent, rather than asking voters for a “blank check.” Others asked to know how long it would take to pay off the bond, and if taxes would be lowered once it was paid off.
Many others criticized the financing method used for the Trojan Century Center, a 46,600-square-foot physical education and recreation facility constructed behind Morgan High School in 2012.
A common theme in the open-ended responses was also the need to have more commercial tax base in Morgan so tax burdens aren’t passed off to home owners. Other comments included not only the inability of fixed incomes to handle a tax increase, but also the fact that some residents have seen their property tax increase every year for the past six years or so.
Many commenters addressed paying teachers more in Morgan, especially as compared to similar positions in Weber and Davis counties. Others said that long-term solutions—rather than Band-aid attempts—should be sought.
District officials said at their Dec. 6 school board meeting that they are concerned that the senior citizen voting demographic hasn’t been responding to the online survey.