After school, Dixon Middle School students will filter down the streets to help pick up younger siblings at Timpanogos Elementary School. At night, adults will come in to the middle school for English classes, and the soccer fields will fill with people kicking around balls. The location is where neighborhood meetings are held, where the neighborhood’s children attend school and where the community votes.
“It’s an anchor for the entire community,” said Mary Wade, who lives near Dixon Middle School.
With a decision from the Provo City School District Board of Education about the future of Dixon Middle School expected within the next several weeks, community members are concerned about the school’s potential move to Provo’s west side and what that would mean for their neighborhoods.
“Sometimes what appears as the easiest solution, scrapping a new school and moving to a new site, is not what’s best for the community,” said Shannon Bingham, whose son attends Dixon Middle School.
The district’s facilities advisory committee suggested last year that the Provo City School District and its board of education should consider a bond to rebuild Timpview High School in some capacity, rebuild Wasatch Elementary School, add an addition to Westridge Elementary School and rebuild — and potentially relocate — Dixon Middle School.
A decision on whether Dixon Middle School will move has not been made by the board. The scope of the bond, including its cost and the projects on it, has not been decided.
Dixon Middle School was built in 1931 of mostly wood or reinforced blocks and add-ons have been constructed multiple times since. The building has been deemed as not being seismically safe, lacks a fire sprinkler system, has a boiler inching up on 50 years and the piping throughout the structure would need to be replaced. The school rests on 8.25 acres, about half the size of the 15 to 20 acres middle schools are typically built on, which makes rebuilding a school on the current site potentially difficult and expensive.
The school could be relocated to a 21-acre parcel on 890 South near Footprinter Park, a location about 1.3 miles from the school’s current location where the district anticipates growth.
A potential relocation and rebuild of Dixon Middle School was considered for the district’s last bond, but was removed before it went to the public for a vote. After watching Provo High School get relocated to the city’s west side, those around Dixon Middle School are worried about another school leaving the downtown area.
“If this school is moved out of our downtown, it is never coming back,” Bingham said.
Her son walks about five blocks from her home to school every day. Bingham said many families who live in the Franklin and Dixon neighborhoods have their children walk or bike to Dixon Middle School, as well.
The group opposing a potential Dixon Middle School move are concerned that a new, western location would decrease walkability.
“This specific site is better designed for walkability because of the way the streets are designed,” said Austin Taylor, who lives across the street from Dixon Middle School. “It is in a grid system, which means it connects everywhere. There are sidewalks. If you go out to where the new school would be, you’ll see cul-de-sacs, you’ll see dead ends.”
The group runs the Facebook group Save Dixon Middle School, and Taylor has started a website, http://SaveDixonMiddle.home.blog to outline their arguments and spur discussion about keeping Dixon Middle School in its current location.
The group has looked over the feasibility studies the Provo City School District had architectural groups draft about the possibility of keeping Dixon Middle School on site. Taylor said the group prefers option 1b from VCBO Architecture, which would add a three-story middle school on the site and would rehabilitate the historic portion of the old school facility for use by the district. Construction would be expected to last through at least a three-year time period.
The report estimates costs of option 1b at $49 million, with the option to rebuild the school at another site at about $42 million, including the cost of land acquisition.
The district does not intend to sell the land Dixon Middle School currently rests on if the school is moved, and wants to preserve the historical part of the building, according to Caleb Price, spokesman for Provo City School District.
Bingham, who was on the district’s facility advisory committee, is concerned about the upcoming decision.
“From being on the facility advisory committee from the very beginning, the conversation focused on everything that was wrong with the site, all of the maintenance issues that need to be addressed in the beginning,” she said. “The focus was on everything that is wrong and it made it sound like for all of these reasons it would just be better to move the building.”
The group plans to put out yard signs in favor of the bond if the school board decides to keep Dixon Middle School at its current location, and will put out signs against the bond if the board votes to move the school should a bond pass.
Wade said she’d oppose a bond if the school were to move because a bond needs to best serve a community.
“If a significant portion of a bond is going to permanently damage a community, then it is not worthwhile to support until they get it right,” Wade said.
The Provo City School District Board of Education will meet with the public to receive information and input on a potential bond at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the gymnasium of Rock Canyon Elementary School.
If approved by the board, a bond would appear on the November ballot.