May 29, 2024 - News

SLC students rally for new high school on the westside

High school students and families walk with a sign that says "Say yes to Glendale High School"

High school students, families and community members begin a 5-mile walk from East High School to Glendale Middle School. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

Students and their families in the Glendale neighborhood are protesting the lack of a high school within walking distance of their homes.

The big picture: No Salt Lake high schools are west of I-15, which includes many of the city's most diverse neighborhoods.

Driving the news: A group of Glendale families completed the nearly 5-mile trek from East High School to Glendale Middle School on Tuesday, to demonstrate the long distances students have to cover to get to school.

Why it matters: Students told Axios they are missing activities and services, from in-school breakfast to after-school clubs.

  • School buses and public transit don't give them enough options to cross almost the entire length of the city, they said.

The intrigue: Salt Lake City School District has been closing schools due to falling enrollment.

  • No high schools are on the chopping block yet. But as the smaller elementary classes age up through the grades, it could become even less likely that westside teens will get a school close to home.
  • Two of the four elementary schools closing this summer are on the westside.

Between the lines: Under state law, students who live farther than 2 miles from their high school are eligible for school-funded transportation.

Yes, but: Buses don't run on demand, and schedules may conflict with off-hours activities and events.

  • Freshman Mauricio Romero told Axios he had to leave home well before 6am to get on a UTA bus in time for morning practices with the basketball team.

Zoom in: Many westside neighborhoods are lower-income, and parents there don't all work jobs that provide time off to drive kids to school and activities when the bus doesn't work out.

  • If students miss the school bus, they still have public transit. But freshman Ronin Sanchez said his UTA bus was 20 minutes behind schedule Tuesday. Junior Aleciya Gonzales told Axios she's missed her entire first period, which starts 8:45am, due to late buses.

What they're saying: Multiple students told Axios they want to attend after-school tutoring — but that leaves them with a 30–40-minute public bus trip.

  • "The options are: Go to tutoring or get home super late," Gonzales said.
  • "I love East; I just want better transportation, Romero said as a possible alternative to a new high school.

Zoom out: Some eastside neighborhoods also fall outside the 2-mile threshold, but the bulk of residential areas with a longer high school commute are in neighborhoods like Rose Park, Poplar Grove and Glendale.

Take a look: Here's a sketch of Salt Lake City's residential neighborhoods that fall outside of a 2-mile radius of a SLC high school.

  • Caveat: This shows 2 miles as the crow flies — a bigger area than travel distance would include. In reality, even more families live outside the range where the state says they are close enough to be responsible for students' transportation.
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