Granite School District holds meetings on school boundaries, seeks feedbackNov 07, 2023 01:03PM ● By Lizzie Walje
Granite School District will be hosting various open houses to discuss boundary studies and population survey results throughout the next several months. (Granite School District)
For many school districts, boundary studies and population surveys serve as an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of current school systems, consolidate schools and facilitate closures when deemed necessary. Earlier this year, as prompted by boundary studies and population surveys conducted in 2022 and 2023, several elementary schools in Granite School District were permanently closed. The response to these closures was mixed.
Back in June, three elementary schools, Twin Peaks, Spring Lane and Millcreek hosted their final classes before closing permanently. Months prior, many parents had voiced their concerns and opposition to the school closures, urging the board to reconsider the decision. Parents who opposed these closures argued that the schools were being unfairly targeted due to the populations they served.
When the schools were still operating, they served populations that had significant numbers of students who identified as people of color. Specifically, Spring Lane’s student body included 43% of students who identified as people of color, and Twin Peaks’ student body was 43% Latino. Furthermore, parents argued that these schools were all located in important areas, given their close proximity to all kinds of services and resources. In summation, these schools were important community touchstones and served underrepresented socioeconomic populations.
April Flores, former PTA president at Millcreek Elementary School was among the most vocal contesters stating, at the time, “Representation matters. It matters in the classroom, and it matters at the administrative level.”
Ultimately, the board decided to move forward with the closures after putting the decision to a final vote. While they claimed to have understood the concerns of the parents, they cited their own set of reasons for closing the schools, with the most prevalent of reasons being the steady decline in enrollment, especially at the three elementary schools in question.
Declining enrollment has been an issue for many school districts in the Salt Lake Valley, and according to various school representatives, COVID has played a major role in exacerbating enrollment disparities. At the peak of the pandemic, schools across all districts were trying to decide how to enforce rules and CDC guidelines while still attempting to give parents autonomy in their decision-making. Parents who were disenchanted with how their assigned district handled the pandemic found themselves withdrawing their students, either to put them in a different district or transfer them to charter institutions, both locally and regionally.
In September 2022, Ben Horsley, the chief of staff for Granite School District, addressed the issue of declining enrollment and how it played a hand in determining which schools to permanently close.
“The reason why we’re looking at these closures is because we are not growing like places like Jordan, Davis, and Alpine school districts with a ton of new growth. We anticipate that by 2024/2025 we are probably going to be around 50,000 students, so we actually expect to lose a few more thousand students,” Horsley said.
Horsley also noted that the schools in question, Twin Peaks, Spring Lane, and Millcreek, were operating under capacity, and the District could no longer justify allocating funds to these schools. He explained to parents that these closures would ultimately benefit all students districtwide and allow for a better-concentrated division of funding and resources.
After going back and forth for months, the decision was final, and the schools were ordered to close, and they did, at the end of the 2023 academic year. At the time of these closures, parents were told that more boundary studies and population surveys were incoming and that more closures and changes were likely inevitable. A month after the closures, in a July 2023 board meeting, it was announced that the board had authorized the Population Analysis Committee (PAC) to proceed with the following boundary studies:
1. The board authorized a recommendation to narrow the school closure consideration to one school, Western Hills Elementary. Additional boundary adjustments to neighboring schools in the area would be necessary. Any decision on closure will happen in late 2023, and any closure will not take effect until the fall of 2024.
2. Brockbank Jr. High is anticipated to reopen in conjunction with grade reconfiguration and the opening of the new Cyprus High School in the fall of 2025. The board authorized the continuation of a study to reopen Brockbank Jr. High and develop a new boundary and feeder pattern. Granite School District will need three viable junior high schools to accommodate sixth- to eighth-grade reconfiguration in the Cyprus High and Hunter Jr. networks.
On Sept. 13 there were two separate meetings held to discuss the proposals. The meeting to discuss the first boundary study was held at Western Hills Elementary School and the meeting to discuss the second was held at Matheson Jr. High. Parents and community members were encouraged to attend the meetings and they did. As expected, the studies and proposals have caused a divide in opinions.
While these initial meetings mark the first of several, Granite School District remains adamant that they would like to hear feedback from both parents and the community at large. Those who are not able to attend the meetings are still encouraged to voice their opinions. The District has set up an online form where parents and community members can provide feedback on a specific proposal. In addition, parents can also email their thoughts to Steve Hogan, who is the director of planning and boundaries for Granite School District.
Hogan was present for many of the meetings and discussions surrounding the closure of Twin Peaks, Millcreek and Spring Lane. At the time he stated that the imminent closures were “very very tough, but [not really] a surprise.” He also echoed Horsley’s sentiments, before stating that many of these studies will continue to take place well into 2024 and 2025.
Granite School District regularly updates the community about these meetings and proceedings, which have the ability to significantly impact the future of students. Because of this, they continue to urge community involvement, welcoming parents to observe and partake in future board meetings. It is likely a decision regarding the aforementioned proposals will be reached within the next few months. λ