ST. GEORGE — Public comment at the Washington County School District board meeting on Nov. 14 resulted in standing ovations in support of keeping open Coral Cliffs Elementary School.

Coral Cliffs Elementary Principal Steve Eaves speaks to the school board about how he opposes the closure of his school at the school district board meeting, St. George, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Emotional parents, staff and the principal of the school made their appeals to the board, who are considering a proposal calling for the closure of the school next fall, forcing reassignment of students and staff.

“I plead with you,” Coral Cliffs Principal Steve Eaves said. “Keep us open. We will be the shining star of Washington County. I promise you that.

“This is a real school with real students who are struggling every day. We have created consistency for these kids.”

Nate Esplin, who serves as the assistant superintendent of elementary education, presented the proposal for the school’s closure at a school board work session in early November. The proposed closure of Coral Cliffs addresses declining enrollment issues at both Paradise Canyon and Red Mountain elementary schools, which would absorb the Coral Cliff students should the proposal be approved.

In addition to the emails and calls Esplin said they’ve received about the proposal, seven attendees addressed the board during the meeting’s public comment period.

Utah Tech University student Kennady McCaul, part of the post-development program offered through Coral Cliffs and the university, was the first one to speak in defense of the school. She is a health and wellness aide at the school.

“This school has lit us with a fire to love and teach students in a way we have never felt before,” she said. “There is truly no numerical value to measure the passion that exists at Coral Cliffs. To waste that potential is incredibly disheartening.”

Utah Tech University student Kennady McCaul voices her support of keeping Coral Cliffs Elementary School open at the school district board meeting, St. George, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Parent Mandie Shelton said the school has proven to be essential, becoming a place where students, who have struggled in other places, have been able to succeed. She also addressed some of the economic issues related to the issue.

“The decline, overall, in the enrollment on the west side may or may not be affected by the last two years of dramatic housing market changes, most notably in the last year,” she said. “We need some time to see how the market affects these areas that have a huge chunk of affordable housing. We may see an uptick in enrollment on this side of town based on those factors.”

Shelton said St. George will not cease to grow.

Another parent who spoke,  Kristen Bringhurst, relayed how her 7-year-old daughter is upset at the prospect of the school closing.

Third grade teacher Reagan Fay and parent Tiffany Benally said the success of the smaller class sizes and how much the “family” atmosphere has helped the kids are factors to be considered.

School Board President Becky Dunn reminded those in attendance that there are still parent meetings, additional communication and data to be considered.

“Obviously, there is no decision being made today,” she said. “That decision will be made in the future.”

(L-R): Washington County School District Superintendent Richard Holmes and board members Larene Cox and David Stirland consider public comments happen at the board meeting, St. George, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News


Also during the meeting, the school board decided to table the agenda item of Policy 4212 for another month. This policy relates to defining curriculum materials in alignment with the sensitive materials state guidelines. The board said they felt some terminology needed to be rehashed before progressing.

The following policies were approved by the board:

Special Education Policies and Procedures
Technology Acceptable Use Policy
Technology Security Policy
Code of Conduct / Appropriate Behavior Policy
Adult Education and High School Completion.

The next school district board meeting is a special work meeting on Monday, Nov. 27, at 5:15 p.m. The next regular board meeting with public comments is Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 4:30 p.m.

All meetings are held at the school district office building at 121 W. Tabernacle Street.

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