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Holladay Journal

Parents react to Spring Lane boundaries likely changing to Oakwood

Nov 01, 2022 07:51PM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Community meetings held by Granite District in September offered three solutions to the decreased enrollment at Holladay elementary schools. But all three solutions were variations on a theme: close three elementary schools, likely Spring Lane, Twin Peaks and another to be decided.

With new boundaries, most students who are in Spring Lane would move to Oakwood Elementary. The district says many families have opted to do that already. Here three parents talk with the Holladay Journal about their concerns and what the district’s plan means for them.

Lindsay Godsey: “My family is heartbroken that Spring Lane is closing.”

We live within Spring Lane boundaries and have two kids there now. I grew up near here and went to Twin Peaks Elementary, which is the other school up for closure, so this decision is really affecting me.

We thought about taking our kids to a different school because we know it’s something that’s commonly done. A lot of our neighbors have done it. But for me I value going to whatever my boundary school is. There is a loss of community with Utah’s open enrollment policy, where on one street we’re at three or more different schools.

The building is old, so being in a newer building like Oakwood is something to look forward to. But I love seeing people just come to the school to play on the playground or walk their dogs. And there’s an atrium in the middle of the school with a pond and ducks! My kids love watching the ducklings every year. 

We knew that the boundary study was supposed to happen, so it’s been on our minds for a while. We had several meetings last year. But I was surprised to see at the meetings in September that in all three options Spring Lane and Twin Peaks would be closed.

We absolutely love being part of the Chinese Dual Language Immersion program at Spring Lane, and we have been told it will continue at Oakwood. If we had lost that along with the school closure we would have been devastated.  

I’ve heard that moving the DLI program to Oakwood is one of the biggest concerns for families there, especially those whose kids are too old to start the track (older than first or second grade). I’m going to be involved in setting it up and helping them see what a benefit it is, even if you don’t have kids in the program.

There are concerns about merging the traditions and after-school programs. What about the chess club? What about the choir? What about the orchestra? Will there be enough room for everyone? This is a very emotional issue.

My family is heartbroken about Spring Lane closing, but we are hopeful it will be a positive change for students and teachers. We look forward to joining our neighbors at Oakwood where will work together as one community.

Matt Nielson: “We saw the writing on the wall.”

My family moved to Salt Lake in 2008 and we live in Spring Lane boundaries. We have five kids and we enrolled right away. We didn’t pick it for the DLI program, which started that year. We were just big proponents of the neighborhood school.

It was a really strong school then and we were heavily involved. My wife was the PTA president, and we did a March Madness basketball tournament during lunch. It was fun.

People started coming here for the DLI program, which is great. But I don’t think the leadership of the school did a good job managing the merger of families who were here for the DLI program and those who were here because it was their neighborhood school.

Because it wasn’t managed well, one of their greatest strengths was also their undoing. I blame the district for this. There was poor leadership and staff wasn’t warm and welcoming. 

As people continued to move into the neighborhood, if their kids were older than first grade (when they could enter the DLI program), they decided to send them somewhere else. Strong, educated families in the boundaries were sending their kids elsewhere.   

We had four of our five kids go through Spring Lane because it was our neighborhood school. But in fall 2019, we saw the writing on the wall that the school was declining. Our youngest son was starting second grade and he wasn’t in the DLI program, so we made the decision to move him to Oakwood.

There has also been a demographic change. In that way, I don’t agree that a closure is short-sighted. I work in real estate, and I don’t see younger families being able to afford moving into this neighborhood and getting the enrollment numbers back up.

Another part of this story is the students we will lose to Cottonwood Elementary, not Oakwood. That changes the flow through junior high and high schools. They will go to the Olympus High network instead of Cottonwood High.

As a taxpayer, I see the numbers and I know that closures will happen, but I’m sad that it has to happen to our neighborhood school. I’m really sad for the parents who love Spring Lane. A school’s not just a school; it’s part of the fabric of the community.

Alisa Kesler-Lund: “I don’t know what support from the district will look like.”

I live in the Cottonwood network and have one child at Oakwood Elementary and one at Bonneville Jr. High. I think generally speaking the parents and community are happy to welcome the Spring Lane families to Oakwood, but we will need support in this merger and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like. Will we have to figure it out on our own?

There are concerns around the DLI program, mostly because of lack of information. How will the district make the transition equitable for the traditional students and the DLI students? Will we be able to hire more teachers for the traditional track? They haven’t been forthcoming on whether they’ll have equitable class sizes. It’s going to be a culture shift.  

Oakwood has the challenge of being on Highland Drive, which is very busy. I am the chair of the Community Council at Oakwood, and we are concerned about safety. What would adding more kids do to pick up and drop off times? Not everyone would ride the bus. I think there will be an uptick in traffic.

The district asked for comments, that’s true. But I am not convinced everyone’s voice is being heard. The district’s own data presented by Steve Hogan in June showed that at schools with greater diversity there was far less parent response.

Was that due to language barriers? Was it due to cultural differences, people not knowing they could ask questions and challenge leadership? Did the district translate all of the information into the 30-plus languages that are spoken at some schools? Were those voices really heard in those meetings? 

It was shocking to me that in the spring GSD presented the studies and floated the idea that schools might close. There was silence over the summer. Then in the meetings in September the only solutions offered all included closing three schools. It feels like a foregone conclusion.

The buildings will likely sit unoccupied. We have in living memory two recent closures— Canyon Rim Elementary and Granite High School. That had a big impact on those neighborhoods.

Is the district painting enrollment “sweet spots” with a broad brush? Consolidating into bigger schools might not be the right choice for everyone. We also have no idea what this will do to the mental health of our students.

 I genuinely think Oakwood families are open and happy to embrace the Spring Lane community. We want it to work, and for them to find a soft place to land. We just don’t know what it looks like to absorb an already well-established program.