Alyssa Campos: Keep Emerson Elementary open

(Sheila R. McCann | The Salt Lake Tribune) The entrance to Emerson Elementary School in Salt Lake City. The school is one of seven elementaries proposed for study for possible closure.

My child was in Ms. Cologna’s kindergarten class last school year in Emerson. I started volunteering in her class almost daily for two hours in the mornings from February until May. The students would read to me. It can take up to two hours (or sometimes more) to have 22 5-and-6-year-olds-go through 10 sentences, one student after another. I know that they have so many academic and social activities to do in the class and that the least I can do is help when I can.

My child’s teacher is amazing — a magician really, and this is indicative of the quality of educators at Emerson. They impart the magic of learning. Ms. Cologna was so attuned to all of her students’ strengths and weaknesses and she knew how to nurture their weaknesses.

What is Salt Lake City School District’s idea of a teacher to student ratio for a “right-sized” class? A 22-student class is manageable. Their definition of a “right-size elementary school” that “offers about three teachers per grade level and can provide full-day kindergarten classes” is already established in Emerson.

With only a few weeks of school left in May, I became the teacher’s aide for the other kindergarten class in Emerson. This class was an even bigger class of 25 students. I saw how the classroom dynamic of a 25-student class is different compared to a 22-student class. It is harder to manage. Emerson class sizes are actually on par with national average public school class sizes.

Students deserve to be in productive small classrooms. A school with small class sizes of 20-students is also better than having no public school at all.

I try to participate in my community, which is why I’m speaking against Emerson’s closure. I live in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. The narrative that everyone in our neighborhood is wealthy as they can afford the rising cost of rent and property or that all the young people here have no children is false. My family’s journey to this neighborhood wasn’t an easy one, as my husband and I didn’t come from generational wealth, nor do we have infinite disposable income. We knew that when we had our child, we wanted her to grow up in a community with strong focus and values in regards to clean air, inclusion and progress. We found these in our current neighborhood and pursued to move here.

How can a community continue its progress without access to public education?

Emerson was established in 1894 and has been around since the inception of this state. It is such a shame that a school which holds a lot of historic value to the community, Salt Lake City and Utah is being considered to close forever. Emerson is an institution that our community cannot afford to lose as it already has established academic and special education programs. It is in this public school that children of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can share their different narratives. Emerson also welcomes children from other neighborhoods.

Emerson is the only public elementary school for the 9th and 9th neighborhood. This area is family-friendly as it is walkable and has access to neighborhood parks like Inglewood Park, Liberty Park and Westminster Park, Sprague Branch library and local businesses in the 9th and 9th area.

Emerson is an invaluable part of our community. My child’s class was able to have safe walking field trips to 7-11 for a Slurpee day, Free Little Libraries, Liberty Park and the post office. City projects like the 900 South Reconstruction and Kensington Byway will continue to bridge Central City and the east side.

It is very shortsighted to close this neighborhood public school now with the Salt Lake City School District and Boundary Options Committee’s expectation or vision that the future of this area may not include any children at all.

Alyssa Campos

Alyssa Campos is a mom, community member, and Emerson Elementary teacher’s aide. She hopes that her daughter will grow up in a world that will always value education and learning.