At a Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Elizabeth Grant said the district recommended closing Hawthorne, M. Lynn Bennion, Mary W. Jackson and Riley elementaries.
“The only reason for making this recommendation is we believe that we serve our district best by consolidating schools and redirecting our resources to building vibrant learning communities in the schools that remain,” Grant said.
If any schools are closed at the end of this process, she said, the district will focus on making the transition as smooth as possible for students, parents, and teachers.
“We recognize the challenges of uncertainty and the disruption that will happen as schools are closed, as boundaries are realigned and families create new routines for attending schools and navigating before and after-school care,” the superintendent said.
In a presentation, the district noted that the city’s K-6 population is shrinking. Current enrollment is 9,300 students while the district has room for 15,000 students.
The district believes funds can be redirected from building costs to enhance and improve student learning.
The Board of Education initially set out this year to study all 27 elementary schools in the district for potential boundary change and closure for the coming school year. The number of schools up for possible closure was later reduced to seven.
However, the district decided it could not close all seven of the schools without some of the remaining buildings becoming overburdened. So, the district opted to study the seven schools to determine which might be best for potential closure.
The seven elementary schools were mostly studied in pairs — Newman and Mary W. Jackson, M. Lyn Bennion and Wasatch, Emerson and Hawthorne, and Riley as a standalone. The three schools not recommended for closure will continue to operate as usual.
In determining which schools to pick for potential closure, the district considered various data points, such as enrollment numbers and how many more years the building could be expected to operate. Community input was also considered.
Yet, there were some factors district officials prioritized in their decision-making. Among them were focusing on walkable neighborhood schools, decreasing major thoroughfare crossings for students, and redrawing boundaries to balance elementary enrollment across the city.
For instance, Bennion, in this analysis, was picked to be closed due to its proximity to two major thoroughfares, significant enrollment challenges and small number of classrooms.
The recommendations released Monday are not final. The Education Board still needs to vote on the matter. The next steps will be taken at a public hearing on Dec. 5 at West High School Auditorium, where community members can voice questions and concerns.
A final decision on school closures could happen as soon as Jan. 9.