Nov 20, 2023 - News

Four Salt Lake City elementary schools recommended for closure

Illustration of a backpack broken into four pieces, forming an "x" shape.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Four elementary schools are at the top of the list for closure, Salt Lake City School District announced Monday.

They are:

  • Hawthorne, 1675 S. 600 East
  • Mary W. Jackson, 750 W. 200 North
  • M. Lynn Bennion, 429 S. 800 East
  • Riley, 1410 S. 800 West

Driving the news: The schools were identified in preliminary recommendations, chosen from seven schools selected for possible closure.

  • Yes, but: The plan isn't final. A public hearing is set for Dec. 5, with a possible decision early in 2024.

The intrigue: The closures include two west-side and two east-side schools.

  • Some parents raised concerns that schools weren't equitably represented in meetings and other public forums, citing income inequality.

Catch up quick: Enrollment in the district is around 20,000 students — about 4,000 fewer than a decade ago.

  • That's the sharpest enrollment decline in the state during that time.

Details: The district's criteria for keeping or closing schools includes:

  • Student enrollment and nearby population
  • Families' proximity to other neighborhood schools
  • Quality of buildings
  • Location of districtwide programs like special education services

Zoom in: The district looked at six of the seven at-risk schools in pairs that are close together geographically, recommending the closure of one from each.

  • Newman would stay open and absorb most of Jackson's students.
  • Emerson, a special-ed hub, would stay open instead of Hawthorne.
  • Wasatch would remain open instead of the smaller Bennion.

Zoom out: Closures could lead to adjusted boundaries for 14 schools across the city, so the district also evaluated the domino effects at schools that aren't currently at risk of closure.

  • For example, the district weighed whether new boundaries would force students to cross busy roads or live too far from the nearest school to bike or walk.

Of note: District officials also recommended several changes to the popular language immersion and gifted magnet programs, moving many to different schools and offering buses to eligible students.

Worth your time: New boundary details and rationale for the recommendations are available on the district website.

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