Salt Lake City parents again this week pleaded their case for why their elementary schools should not be closed. And again, many asked for more transparency on the process moving forward.
“We’re not coming to you with hysterical chants of, ‘Not my school,’” said Emerson Elementary parent and School Community Council chair Joey McNamee at this week’s board meeting. “We’re making a rational request for transparency in a decision that will materially affect the lives of our children.”
District officials on Tuesday presented how they will be further studying the seven elementary schools, along with when and where they will hold information sessions for families and community members.
The district will use five categories to reach their recommendations for school board members, said Boundaries and Planning Director Brian Conley, and it will take a “holistic approach” to suggesting schools for closure.
“This isn’t just a math problem you can put down on paper, this isn’t just a number you can assign to each thing,” he said. “There are judgment calls based on what’s happening, because there is no one right answer except for the one right answer being, we’ve got to do something.”
The continuing study of Bennion, Emerson, Hawthorne, Mary W. Jackson, Newman, Riley and Wasatch elementaries comes after the district’s K-6 enrollment has declined by almost 4,000 students in the last eight years, Conley noted.
What are the five categories the schools will be studied under?
Here are the categories and the measures officials will consider.
Enrollment and residential population: This includes enrollment data, such as the total number of students, the number of resident students, number of students who live in within a one-mile radius, and projected enrollment trends from both resident students and overall students.
Proximity and availability of neighborhood schools: Student safety factors, like safe walking routes, will be weighed, along with studying how to reduce the number of students crossing major and busy streets. The district will consider what what the transportation options will be for students who will need to transfer if a school closes.
This category also includes environmental factors — like pipelines and high voltage power lines that have been installed near schools, and community and neighborhood security — such as how close a school is to others, and the “desire to provide walkable alternatives to students and families, to the extent possible, to support neighborhood identity along with the sense of community.”
Building and learning environment quality: The district will consider the remaining useful life of buildings; unique features in classrooms, such as technological capabilities; the physical condition and capacity of the building; and repair and potential maintenance needs.
Strategic placement of districtwide programs for equity and access: This involves weighing how moving a special program may affect students in that program; the learning environments and facilities created in a school for special programs, “particularly special education programs,” and the availability of “quality spaces in the current school or in an alternative setting.”
And lastly, community input and stakeholder feedback will be a “primary consideration,” he said.
“We are applying their cares and concerns, as applicable, to all schools on the list for further study,” Conley read. “In this way we balance the feedback we are receiving regarding one school to apply to all schools, even those where parents have not been able to voice their concerns at board meetings or in other planned meetings.”
When and where will information meetings be held?
This month and in October, the district will hold five information meetings spread out across the city in neighborhoods that have a school being further studied for possible closure.
Spanish translation will be available at four of the meetings, while one meeting will be conducted in Spanish.
The meetings will be held at:
Salt Lake Center for Science Education-Bryant Middle School on Tuesday, Sept. 12, from 6-8 p.m. at 40 S. 800 East.
Glendale Middle School on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 9-11 a.m. at 1430 W. Andrew Ave.
Northwest Middle School on Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 7-9 p.m. at 1730 W. 1700 North.
Franklin Elementary School on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 9-11 a.m. at 1115 W. 300 South.(Meeting will be held in Spanish.)
Hillsdale Middle School on Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 7-9 p.m. at 1825 South Nevada Street.