Board Meeting Report - November 7, 2023
The Board of Education of the Salt Lake City School District (the Board) met on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. The meeting was recorded and is available on the district’s YouTube channel.
The Board of Education recognized and welcomed Aaron Bodell as the new Assistant Principal at the district’s Career and Technical Center. Mr. Bodell brings a wealth of knowledge and experience working with Career and Technical Education in building pathways for students at the state level. He previously worked as a high school assistant principal in a neighboring school district. We are excited to have Mr. Bodell and his expertise on our team to help us open more college and career pathways for our students.
Possible Fourth High School Next Steps
The district has heard from many families and community members who are interested in the possibility of building a fourth comprehensive high school in the Glendale area. To respond to the feedback we’ve received from the community, Business Administrator Alan Kearsley informed the Board that the district is hiring a demographics firm to review our high school enrollment and compile enrollment projections. Hiring a professional firm to study the feasibility of opening a fourth high school and review the implications for other district schools will provide much-needed information. We will keep the community updated on any major developments.
Mr. Kearsley shared that the district is in the process of hiring a company to survey the residents of Salt Lake City to gauge community support for rebuilding West High School and Highland High School in advance of the Board considering whether to hold a bond election in 2024. If the Board decides to move forward with rebuilding these schools and/or building a fourth comprehensive high school, it will need to hold a bond election to raise money for these projects. Mr. Kearsley also noted that now would be an appropriate time to have the architects who conducted the initial feasibility studies for Highland High School and West High School start designing plans for rebuilding the schools. If the Board decides to go for a bond vote next year, the plans could help inform taxpayers on how the money would be spent. The Board gave direction to set a goal for a bond election in November 2024.
Rosslyn Heights Property Plan
During the September 19, 2023, Board meeting the district presented a proposed site plan for the Rosslyn Heights property. (Rosslyn Heights Elementary was closed in the district’s last round of school closures twenty years ago, and the property is still under district ownership.) The plan includes building six tennis courts and a multi-use field for soccer and lacrosse. It also features a playground, pavilion, restrooms, changing rooms, lockers, storage, and a 105-space parking lot. The district conducted a public survey of residents who live in the area near the property, and the plan received strong support from respondents.
These athletic fields will primarily be used by Highland High School students but would also be available to other schools in the district. The district will set guidelines to create security plans and to make the fields available for public use when not in use by students. He informed the Board that the district has sufficient funds in the capital budget to cover the construction cost over the next two years, projected to be approximately $6.4 million.
The Board asked for updates if cost estimates changed substantially and then voted to approve the plan.
Sustainability Phase 2 Funding
In an effort to advance the district's sustainability goals of using 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 and meeting 100% of our energy needs with carbon-neutral energy by 2040, Mr. Kearsley recommended a plan to fund the next phase of our sustainability plan. He mentioned that after meeting with our energy management partner, McKinstry, the district could use a TELP (tax-exempt lease purchase) loan and utilize energy savings from Phase 2 to pay off the loan over the next several years. Mr. Kearsley said this type of funding is working well for Phase 1, which included solar panel installations, lighting updates, water management, and HVAC system upgrades at various schools.
The proposed work in Phase 2 would include the installation of solar panels on 12 schools and two district offices, installing a hybrid electrification system at two schools, and other energy efficiency projects. Detailed information about the proposed work can be found on the district website.
The Board moved this item to the action agenda and voted to approve the plan.
Boundary and Planning Update
As the district continues to follow the timeline outlined in Policy G-5 for its Population and Boundary Study, Boundaries and Planning Director Brian Conley reported to the Board on the community feedback gathered from the online comment form, recent community information meetings, and site-specific meetings at the seven schools being studied for possible closure. The recurring themes in the feedback include:
- maintaining walkable school communities,
- equitable access to district programs,
- use of school property if schools are closed,
- impacts on class size and staffing,
- ensuring district leaders are listening to the feedback,
- avoiding closing four schools in the center of the city,
- details about the financial impact of closing schools,
- school enrollment data, and
- the important role schools play in communities.
Mr. Conley said the feedback helped guide the format of the meetings and is being used in discussions and considerations as the district works to finalize its recommendations for the Board. Online comments and written comments from the community meetings are being shared with district leaders and Board members. District leaders and Board members attended the community information meetings, which are available for viewing on the district's YouTube channel.
Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Grant concluded Mr. Conley’s report with several key pieces of information.
- During the November 20, 2023 Board meeting, the district will share its initial recommendation on school closures, boundary changes, and placement of district programs, as well as initial information about transition plans.
- The initial recommendations will be reviewed in the Board meeting and placed on the district website that same night.
- Due to the expected interest in these initial recommendations, the November 20 Board meeting will be held at Glendale Middle School (1430 W. Andrew Ave., SLC, UT). The public portion of the meeting will begin at 6 p.m.
- Lastly, Dr. Grant announced that the district will not dismiss employees who may be displaced due to any potential school closure. All current faculty and staff of impacted schools will be offered equivalent employment opportunities within the district in the event the outcome of the population and boundary study results in school closure(s).