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Providence Council says unanimous no to school district’s plans

January 26th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

Story and photo by Paul Christiansen

PROVIDENCE — Mayor Ronald Liechty was recently informed by Superintendent Steven Norton of Cache County School District’s plans to close Providence Elementary and relocate its students to Spring Creek Middle School.

paul - providence schoolTuesday the Providence City Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the Cache County School District to reconsider its plans to vacate Providence Elementary.

“I strongly—and I guess not strong enough—told them that we felt like that would deter from our downtown,” Liechty said. “To take away what we have going with the school would really upset our downtown plans that we have here. I asked if they would reconsider not closing that school. In my opinion he (Norton) laughed at us. Their minds are made up and whatever you tell them, it’s in one ear and out the other. They’ve got the way they’re going to do it and if the bond goes through they’re going to do it, whether we like it or not.”

At the time of Leichty’s conversation with Norton, Norton  inquired whether Providence City would be willing to take ownership of the school property should the district’s bond be approved.

Council members are primarily concerned with the vacant area that would be left in the heart of downtown Providence if the elementary school is closed. The space has no foreseen use and residential property taxes would increase dramatically if the city took ownership.

Town hall-type meetings have been conducted by the school board recently in other Cache County communities, Leichty said, but no meeting has been held in Providence  yet.

“I guess in the last meeting they stated they had talked to Providence City and that Providence was all aboard for taking that property and accepting that,” Leichty said. “That is not what I thought I left with Mr. Norton at all.”

Councilmen Dale Astle and Don Calderwood attended a meeting held in Millville to discuss the proposed bond within that community.

“I was really disappointed—and I expressed my feelings to the school board representative—that Providence and River Heights were conveniently left out of their ‘information’ meetings,” Astle said. “If the citizens of Providence want to hear it, they have to go to Hyrum. It’s affecting Providence students and parents enough that Providence should have the basic courtesy of having a meeting within their community.”

Calderwood felt Millville residents at the meeting were “very upset with the lack of communication and factual information presented to them.” He felt that the meeting left many with a “bad taste.” He also felt that Providence citizens should unite somehow and make sure the school district has a definitive plan it can be held to and questioned on.

“I think we need to do everything we can to slow them down and make them rethink the closing of our school,” said Councilman Ralph Call. “We need to create some new solutions for our schools and the problems that we face without breaking the bank. I think we should demand that from our representatives on the school board. Or demand the firing of the superintendent if they bring those types of things forward. They are simply outrageous.”

Astle believes a resolution from the representatives of Providence government might lead some people within the community to start asking questions. The resolution would likely generate more discussion within the community and a call by the public for the school board to answer those questions.

“We probably don’t have all the facts and figures on this by far,” Astle said. “Our citizens, seeing that we passed this resolution, should demand that they come here and hold a town meeting.”

Providence resident Sharell Eames also attended the Millville meeting and was an advocate for opposition to the district bond.

“The superintendent indicated there were still conversations going on with Providence City to encourage the taking over of the school. He did not indicate that you had said ‘Absolutely not,’” Eames said, addressing Leichty. “In no way did he say that.

“I think there’s enough negative feelings about this whole bonding issue that there will be quite a group that will work together to defeat the bond totally to avoid this kind of thing,” Eames said. “I think people are mighty upset about the whole thing.”

Leichty believes that public discussion will be the best defense against the proposed bond and public hearings regarding the district’s decision will likely be held in the near future.


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