Oakwood and Spring Lane principals hope their example eases transitionJun 30, 2023 12:30PM ● By Heather Lawrence
Kip Carlsen, left, and Eric Bailey, right, sport their “Together we SOAR” T-shirts at the April Fun Run for Spring Lane and Oakwood Elementary Schools. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
Principals Eric Bailey of Oakwood Elementary and Kip Carlsen of Spring Lane had a crash course in teamwork this year, and they’re hoping they’ve earned an A grade. Late in 2022 they learned Spring Lane would close and Oakwood would absorb most of the student body. They decided for the good of their school communities to work through the transition together.
Carlsen was principal at Spring Lane for just a year, but what a year. “I fell in love with the place really quick. The community here is strong, and I can see why people love this school,” he said.
Carlsen was named principal at the April 2022 board meeting, which was about the same time Granite District announced they’d commissioned population studies for the Cottonwood network.
Bailey had been at Oakwood since the fall of 2021. They’d known of each other because they had both been at secondary schools. “I noticed Kip [Carlsen] because he always had intelligent things to say,” Bailey said.
In his new position, Carlsen relied on Bailey to help him transition to elementary school. “A lot of the programs and terminology in elementary school is different from that in secondary schools. Our schools were only .9 miles apart, so I was always asking him about things,” Carlsen said.
Like the rest of the community, Carlsen and Bailey learned in late 2022 that the district had decided to close three elementary schools, including Spring Lane. Knowing most of the students would be reassigned to Oakwood, the two principals decided to publicly embrace the change together.
“We felt like the district had been open and transparent about the process. So we were grateful to share what we knew with parents and students,” Carlsen said.
He praised Bailey’s decision to welcome the Spring Lane community to PTA and community council meetings beginning in January.
They’ve combined for other activities, too. In April, Oakwood held a Fun Run, and Spring Lane students were bussed over to participate. All the students got a T-shirt with the logos of both schools. The theme of the day was “together we soar.”
“Eric [Bailey] has done an amazing job. He’s gone above and beyond to be welcoming to our community. He’s come over to my faculty meetings. In my opinion, there’s nothing he could have done better to help this community,” Carlsen said.
Carlsen said he knows some people are still disappointed with the change, but he’s looking at the positive side.
“We’ve had a slow decline in population over the years. Our school has the highest number of kids who permit out to other schools, so a lot of students from our community are already somewhere else. The smaller population made it harder to hire and retain staff.
“I’m excited for the students to be at Oakwood where they have more support staff. It’s also a newer school—it was completed in 2011—and there’s something exciting about being in a newer facility that makes you more engaged in learning,” Carlsen said.
Bailey was happy to welcome the community and address any concerns. Seven teachers, roughly half of the Spring Lane faculty, accepted teaching positions at Oakwood, which he said will help.
Bailey’s tried to reassure parents’ concerns about parking and busses, staffing, and moving the DLI Chinese program to Oakwood.
“Parents from both schools are just parents and they have the same questions. ‘How will my child be taken care of academically and socially? How will you make sure they succeed?’ That’s what parents want to know,” Bailey said.
Both principals agree that change is hard. By setting the example of working together and going into the transition with a positive attitude, they hope to teach their communities how to successfully navigate change.
“There’s fear of the unknown, but I’m excited for our kids to move over here. There will be a lot of benefits, and I know once the new school year gets going they’ll love Oakwood and be ready to go,” Carlsen said. “It’s been amazing to work with Eric during the year and get our communities ready for this transition.” λ