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UPCOMING CHANGES STIR MAGNA PARENTS

A formal recommendation to close the aged Webster Elementary School was met with resignation Tuesday night, but the resulting boundary changes are generating controversy.

Under various scenarios presented at the Granite Board of Education meeting, four other elementary schools with more than 3,100 students in Magna will likely be affected by the closure.After months of study and public meetings, a Magna community committee advised the board to close Webster and send most of its 358 students to Magna Elementary School and some to Lake Ridge and Copper Hills elementary schools.

That, in turn, would force the displacement of 144 students from Magna Elementary to Pleasant Green.

A counterproposal signed by more than 300 parents - mostly in the east Magna Elementary district - recommends that Webster's students be spread among the surrounding schools to minimize the impact on any one school.

The question of what to do with Webster was raised earlier this year when state and federal inspectors ordered it brought into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Faced with the prospect of spending as much as $1 million on an 87-year-old school, Granite District officials appointed a committee to look at alternatives.

In its report to the board, the "ADA Compliance Committee" concluded that it makes little economic sense to fix Webster. Even if the money is spent to bring it up to code, the three-story sandstone structure would still pose fire and earthquake safety concerns, the committee said.

Committee chairwoman Kathy Thee informed the board that a survey of Magna residents found "overwhelming support" for closing Webster as long as the students could be moved to other schools fairly and maintain their educational programs.

The group also recommended that Granite District buy property for construction of a new elementary school when enrollment capacities are reached at the remaining four schools in Magna.

And Webster should not be allowed to become an abandoned eyesore, the committee added. It should go to a community organization or private owner willing to put it to some good use, it said.

"We believe our recommendations address the needs of the community and taxpayers," Thee told the board.

Committee secretary Chris Wayman said the proposed boundary alignment that would put most of Webster's students into Magna Elementary was designed with school capacity, safety and community continuity in mind.

But Marge Earl, a representative of the Magna Elementary group, said the committee's plan raises traffic safety problems for students. Also, it would be unfairly disruptive to Magna Elementary students who would be forced to move from a traditional school schedule to a year-round schedule at Pleasant Green.

"It would be more logical to incorporate the Webster students into the three surrounding schools and not disrupt Magna with such magnitude," the Magna Elementary group said in its report.

A decision is likely at the board's April 18 meeting.