DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Oquirrh Hills Elementary School first to be shut down under Utah’s turnaround program

Jan 14, 2019, 3:40 PM
Oquirrh Elementary School students...
Oquirrh Elementary School students pose with "live united" shirts in a photograph from the school's website, taken on November 3, 2014, the year before the turnaround program began. (Photo: Granite School District)
(Photo: Granite School District)

Oquirrh Hills Elementary School has become the first school to be shut down under Utah’s turnaround program and will officially close its doors at the end of the academic year.

The school, which has had some of the lowest test scores in the state, was given three years to show improvement in its students’ academic achievement. Instead, their test scores went down, and, on Tuesday, Jan. 8th, the Granite District School Board voted to shut it down for good.

“These kids deserve a quality educational opportunity,” Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsely told KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic when he was invited to discuss it on the air. “We were not providing it.”

Utah’s school turnaround program

Oquirrh Hills Elementary's Dr. Seuss Day

Oquirrh Hills Elementary School students perform as they participate in Dr. Seuss Day on March 1, 2013. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Under Utah’s school turnaround program, which started in 2015, the schools that receive the lowest 3 percent of student achievement scores in SAGE math, language arts, and science test are given grants and expert assistance to help them catch up with the other schools in the district.

But all of that comes with a heavy catch. Every school in the program has three years to show improvement or they’ll face consequences that could range from seeing their teachers replaced to getting shut down outright.

Getting a turnaround school to improve isn’t easy, as Horsely himself admits. Most of the schools in the program are in low socio-economic areas, where students face challenges that middle and upper-class students never have to imagine.

Those challenges affect them before they even walk through the school doors. The average middle-class student, Horsely says, enters into kindergarten with a vocabulary of 2,500 words. The average impoverished student, however, enters with only 600.

“These kids are not dumb,” Horsley says. “They just are starting at a different starting line than your average middle class or high-income student.”

As difficult as the task is, however, Horsely doesn’t believe that it’s impossible. To get out of the program, schools just have to show growth, something the other schools in the program managed to do. Ten schools in the Granite School District were identified as turnaround schools. Eight of those schools showed enough improvement to get out of the program, while one improved enough to get an extension.

Oquirrh Hill Elementary, on the other hand, didn’t just fail to improve. During the three years they were in the program, student achievement actually went down.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Granite School Board voted to close its doors forever.

The future for Oquirrh Hills

Oquirrh Hills Elementary School

Teacher Mary Hamilton helps sixth-grader Karina Palza at Oquirrh Hills Elementary in
the file photo taken Aug. 30, 2010. (Photo: Keith Johnson, Deseret News)

Although the school is shutting its doors, Horsley says that there are no plans for any of the employees to lose their jobs.

The administrator in charge of the school will be reassigned to a different school. Horsley says that she was brought in this year to help turn the school around, and that the scores that led to the school being shut down came from before she joined the team.

The teachers themselves will also be reassigned. They will not be put into the same classrooms as their previous students, but they will not be fired, either.

“I think some people think these teachers should just be put out on the streets and fired,” Horsley says.

He doesn’t believe that’s necessary. “Sometimes teachers get in a rut. Sometimes teachers thrive in certain environments and don’t in other environments. So we have certainly found, in some instances, when teachers are struggling that to put them in a new environment with a different type of instructional leader can make a world of a difference and they can start performing.”

The students themselves will be sent to other schools in the area starting the next schools year.

Horlsey has also promised that class sizes at the schools receiving Oquirrh Hills students will not grow. The district already has plans in place to hire new teachers to make sure that class sizes stay the same.

“We need to give these kids the growth, get them up to speed to give them an opportunity,” Horsley says. He believes that the key to making sure they get those opportunities is making sure that they have quality instruction.

At Oquirrh Hills Elementary Schools, Horsley says, the students weren’t getting it. But he’s hopeful that, at their new schools, that will change.

More to the story

You can hear everything Ben Horsley had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

affordable care actaffordable care act

Today’s Top Stories

Dave & Dujanovic

Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides. (Stock photo)...
Alejandro Lucero

Pass the stuffing not the uncomfortable conversation this Thanksgiving

Dave and Dujanovic spoke with an expert who will help you void the gobble-squabble around the dinner table this Thanksgiving.
4 days ago
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 20: People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near the Club...
Curt Gresseth

‘I trained for this,’ says veteran who took down gunman at nightclub

A veteran joins the show to provide insight into the actions of another veteran who limited the loss of life at a Colorado nightclub by subduing the gunman until police arrived on scene.
5 days ago
Rioters at the US Capitol...
Curt Gresseth

Utah bill would limit police access to your cellphone data

A spokesman for a a libertarian think tank in Utah discusses why he supports a bill at the Legislature limiting law enforcement access to the cellphone of a person near a crime scene.
6 days ago
rollercoaster lagoon...
Curt Gresseth

Lagoon spokesman explains big price hike for day pass

Lagoon announces Primordial, a new one-of-a-kind interactive rollercoaster, coming in 2023, but with the new ride comes higher season passes.
9 days ago
Police provided an update but added little new information about four University of Idaho students ...
Curt Gresseth

Police stay quiet after quadruple homicide in Idaho

A killer is on the loose, police in Moscow, Idaho, are tight-lipped and a community is on edge after four university students were found slain Saturday.
10 days ago
A Utah psychiatry expert joined KSL NewsRadio's Dave and Dujanovic to discuss how friends and famil...
Curt Gresseth

Setting boundaries on a friend or family member’s addiction

Instead of boundaries that look like giving in or cutting off the person with an addiction, one Utah expert suggests seeking middle ground.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Oquirrh Hills Elementary School first to be shut down under Utah’s turnaround program