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JAMMIN' ON THE QUAD: The band Allred performs during a day of welcome for returning students. Click Arts&Life for a link to photos. / Photo by Heather Routh

Today's word on journalism

Monday, September 3, 2007

"I've always been all over the lot in my writing. Except for poetry -- even though they say all the old-time sportswriters use plenty of it. Maybe it's just part of what we do."

--Frank DeFord, 2006

Newton residents ask: Why no school in our town?

By Lisa Rose

April 27, 2007 -- NEWTON | The morning bell at White Pine Middle School in Richmond rings at 7:25 a.m., but the bus ride for Newton children starts as early as 6:30 a.m. Two hours daily on a bus might make more sense if the school district did not own a plot of land in Newton to build an elementary school. But they do.

Two buses drive by the 10-acre plot at 125 W. 300 South each morning to take the Newton elementary children to Lewiston, the middle school students to Richmond and the high school students to Smithfield. Yet no developments have been made on this plot that is still in farmland since Cache County School District obtained it in the late 1970s. The district has not built an elementary school in Newton, nor do they plan to in the near future. This is primarily because of a low student population in the area, said Cache County School District Business Administrator Dale Hansen.

At least 450 students in the surrounding area would need to benefit from an elementary to justify building a $9-10 million school. Hansen said just the overhead cost to keep it open would be $300,000 per year.

However, the head-count is not far from the required 450 children. A board that was established before the 2003 bond election determined that Newton, Clarkston and Trenton had 400 children, age's kindergarten through fifth grade, said Liz Lyon, mother and Cache County resident.

"I love Lewiston elementary," Lyon said of the school her child currently attends. "It is just hard to have it so far away. It is just silly that Newton has a plot and the district won't build on it."

As a parent, Randi Jorgensen shares these frustrations with Lyon about the situation, especially the long bus ride.

"We would love to have two hours with our children where now they are learning dirty jokes and bad words."

About three-quarters of the volunteers at Lewiston elementary are from Newton and surrounding areas. Jorgensen said this is proof that Newton wants and would help staff an elementary school built on the district-owned 10-acre plot.

The district first purchased a five-acre plot from Joseph Jones for $27,500 in 1978. Second, they purchased five acres from the Rigby/Shelton families. In January 1979, the district exchanged this Rigby/Shelton plot for five acres, owned by Katheryn Rasmussen, adjacent to the Jones' plot.

Kelly Griffin farms this 10-acre plot, appraised at $80,000. The house sitting on the plot is the old Rasmussen house, once owned by the great-grandparents of Carol Milligan, a Newton resident.

"They took it [the five acres] away from us," Milligan said sharply. "The school district said, 'Sell it to us or we will take it away!'"

Hansen said he thinks land exchange agreements were made before the purchase of the original Jones' plot although the district did not have a realtor at thr time. Despite whether the land was sold by choice or not, the district does own this property in Newton. After all the trouble of securing the conveniently located land in Newton, the children are still bused to surrounding towns for their education.

Lyon said that residents are frustrated that the district has not seriously considered the possibility of an elementary school in Newton. She said that the residents would come to terms if the answer was no, they just want a fair analysis. In the pre-2003 board, established to make a long-term recommendation to the school district on solutions for population growth, Lyon said the district did not get a single person from the Newton area to give input.

"We just don't feel like they consider our needs," Lyon said. "This county seems not the care about the west side. We don't get consideration for the good things, but they sure remember us when they want to build a dump!"


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