In the spirit of moving forward, voters Tuesday in Jordan School District delved a century into history as they made history.

And now, things could become historically sticky.

In pioneer days, 37 school districts dotted Salt Lake County, according to "The First 100 Years: A History of Jordan School District," by Scott Crump. Five south-valley communities in 1905 came together to form what's now the state's largest school district, mainly to standardize tax rates, school schedules and educational equity, plus pool resources to establish high schools, Crump wrote. Fewer district boundaries also would allow students to attend schools closest to home.

"Opponents to this proposal pointed to the fact that the individual communities would lose local control of their district," Crump wrote.

Tuesday, residents of east-side Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Sandy, Alta and Midvale, plus adjacent Salt Lake County swaths, voted — according to unofficial election results — to form Utah's 41st school district, which some leaders have referred to as the Canyons School District. The new district is expected to be, by the time its school bell rings in 2009, the state's fifth largest, and the first new Utah school district formed in about 100 years, said Martin Bates, school law expert and assistant to the Granite District superintendent.

It also is the first time a Utah school district has broken apart.

And it might not be easy. The task, from hiring a superintendent to creating district policy, setting up a computer system, payroll and other departments will be "monumental" to accomplish in 18 months, district spokeswoman Melinda Colton said.

"It is complex beyond description," Colton said. "Our foremost concern (in the meantime) will always be the students."

But a fight could be brewing on special programs.

Under the law, both districts will set up transition teams —east-district advocate Brian Allen also hopes focus groups might form to gauge what the community wants in a new district — to divide inventoried assets and liabilities. That includes the district's $195 million fund balance as of June 30, 2006. All but about $27 million is earmarked to pay bills, create a 5 percent nest egg allowed by law, and building projects, deputy superintendent over business services Burke Jolley said.

Special programs like gifted and special education and technology programs also are in the mix. The district, however, believes those are are not necessarily up for grabs.

The ALPs (gifted program) infrastructure is at the district office, which created it. The International Baccalaureate program at Hillcrest High school in the new district was granted by program headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to the Jordan Board of Education because of its commitment, Colton said. Jordan Valley and South Valley schools, serving students with disabilities, are unique to the district and operated by it.

Who gets them is "something attorneys are going to have to work out," Colton said.

Also in play: A lawsuit challenging the district split election on 14th Amendment grounds. Residents of the remaining district were not allowed to vote on the matter.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com