Salt Lake City School District school closure recommendations

Nov 20, 2023, 8:45 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2023, 2:46 pm

Elizabeth Grant, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, watches fifth and sixth grad...

Elizabeth Grant, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, watches fifth and sixth graders build structures out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows in their summer school class at North Star Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, Salt Lake City School District released the initial recommendations about what elementary schools should close.

Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Elizabeth Grant outlined the recommendations in an open Salt Lake City School District Board.

It is recommended the board close four elementary schools: Hawthorne Elementary, M. Lynn Bennion Elementary, Mary W. Jackson Elementary, and Riley Elementary.

“We analyzed data and implications of closure and determined that it is not in the best interest of our district to close all seven schools named for further study,” Grant said. “Closing seven schools at one time would strain the space available in the remaining schools.”

It would also require boundary adjustments and create more challenges with bussing students to school, she said.

However, the district recommended to close more schools rather than fewer. Grant said schools were studied in pairs based on how close they were. The recommendation is one school in each pair is closed.

“It is difficult to deliver this recommendation,” Grant said. “Each of these schools has value and they represent a community that has been working to serve families and students for years.”

Why were those schools recommended for closure?

Mary W. Jackson Elementary and Newman Elementary were studied as a pair. Newman has a PreK program that will be difficult to relocate, but Mary W. Jackson’s dual language program can be relocated. Newman’s building is also newer, and Grant said while it has a smaller overall enrollment, its neighborhood program serves more students than Mary W. Jackson. That’s why Mary W. Jackson is recommended for closure.

M. Lynn Bennion Elementary and Wasatch Elementary were the next pair studied. Grant said Wasatch has significant accessibility concerns. But, M. Lynn Bennion has fewer classrooms, is next to two major roads, and has a declining student population. So, M. Lynn Bennion was recommended for closure.

Emerson Elementary and Hawthorne Elementary were considered as a pair. Grant said both schools have aspects that would warrant a closure. However, Emerson is a district HUB school that serves students with disabilities. Relocating the HUB program would cause “significant disruption.” That’s why Hawthorne was recommended for closure.

Riley Elementary was considered on its own. Because there are two schools within 1.5 miles of it and last year 41% of residential students chose to attend a different school, it is recommended for closure.

Other recommendations 

Grant also outlined other recommendations for schools in the district. One is to avoid closing schools that are close together. Grant said closing schools close together would again require boundary changes and could require students to cross major roads to get to school. 

Expanding access to “special district programs” is also recommended. Those programs include magnet ELP programs, dual language programs, and special education hubs. Grant said only one such program should be located at any given elementary school. But, also recommends the district provide busing to the programs if they live more than 1.5 miles from their assigned school.

The last recommendation is that if a school does close, all faculty and staff be offered equivalent employment opportunities within their district. 

“Every employee brings value to the district, and I want to acknowledge these contributions,” Grant said.

Another public hearing will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. in the West High School Auditorium. It is open for everyone to comment on the recommendations.

Related stories: Salt Lake City School District considering school closures

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Salt Lake City School District school closure recommendations