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West Jordan Journal

Westland Elementary turns 50 but it’s West Jordan Elementary, age 40, that is fighting for its life.

Oct 04, 2022 12:14PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Westland Elementary is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a Homecoming Celebration Nov. 10, 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at the school, located at 2925 W. 7180 South.

Past students, staff and community members are invited to attend the event, which will feature food, fun and a visit from the school mascot, Waldo the Wildcat.

In preparation for a presentation and a trivia quiz to be held that night, community members and past students and staff members are invited to share their memories and stories of Westland through a questionnaire on the school website, through email at [email protected] or by phone at 801-565-7508.

Students and parents will have the opportunity to catch up with many past teachers and some of the nine past administrators who will be in attendance.

Westland Administrative Assistant Crystal Whitehead said it will be a fun evening of reminiscing.

            “We've had so many generations at our school,” she said. “We've had teachers that have taught students who are now parents, and now they're teaching their kids.”

Current Westland students are learning about the year the school was built with fun facts about 1972 during Throwback Thursday morning announcements.

At 50 years old, Westland is not the oldest school building in Jordan School District. The oldest buildings are in West Jordan and the oldest is Westvale, at 59 years old. Terra Linda will turn 50 next year and Majestic is 47 years old. The Jordan Board of Education is working to address the age of these buildings as well as the dwindling enrollment numbers in the area.

Current discussion centers around closing West Jordan Elementary, which is 40 years old. While not the oldest school building, its design will not outlast the older buildings. WJE was built with relocatable classrooms on metal trailer frames, which have begun to deteriorate. With student and staff safety as their top priority, the Jordan District Board of Education has decided the building has future safety concerns sufficient to consider closing the school at the end of this school year.

Board members are considering options for the fate of West Jordan Elementary and its 458 students, and has whittled down ten initial options to three:

1- Close WJE and redistribute students to neighboring schools.

2- Rebuild WJE. Students would be split and moved to neighboring schools for two years during construction. A different elementary school in the area would likely be closed.

3- Close WJE, redistribute students into other nearby schools, and invest in updates for those schools.

Community members are rallying to save their school, much like parents and teachers did to save Majestic Elementary from closure in 2020.

Rob and Kristin Bolke live across the street from WJE. Two of their children attend the school and another will be a kindergartener next year. They started a Facebook page, Save West Jordan Elementary, as a forum to share information and encourage involvement to save the school.

“I wanted to try to find solutions, to get people's input and get some solutions to the school board,” Rob Bolke said.

The group, which has more than 300 members, organized to deliver fliers to 1,300 homes in the area at three different times in the past few months, encouraging residents to attend meetings and to show support for a rebuild.

“We would love people to get involved and voice their concern and care about their community, because even though they don't have kids at their elementary school, it's important to their neighbors,” Bolke said. “We've had all sorts of people get involved that don't have kids at the school, because they see how important that school is to attracting families to our neighborhoods.”

Those who have become involved want to keep WJE open because they like having a school located within their neighborhood with a small, close-knit student body (currently 458 students.)

“West Jordan is a community school,” Bolke said. “A lot of the employees, the service people, are part of our neighborhood and so there is really a sense of community, where everyone knows our kids.”

Jordan District Board of Education member Jen Atwood, who represents the school, said the board is aware of the community members’ concerns, having received calls, texts, emails and letters from community members.

“All of our communities love their school (this is always our hope as a board and district), which makes having conversations like closures emotional and difficult, to say the very least,” said Atwood, who previously served as WJE PTA president and also worked at the school.

To ensure community members are involved in the process, the board is hosting a series of town hall meetings to provide accurate information, clear up misconceptions and answer questions.

 At the Sept. 20 town hall meeting, one of the community members’ top concerns was that if WJE, which is nestled within a neighborhood with safe walking routes, were closed, their children would have to walk to schools farther away and on busier, unsafe streets. The board assured residents that their top priority is student safety and were confident safe walking routes could be identified.[2] [3] 

Several community members questioned the board’s data supporting their justifications for closure as well as their data-gathering methods with regards to the proposed reconstruction costs. Many voiced concern that the decision was being made too hastily and that their community’s needs have been neglected for years.

Some people left the meeting frustrated by the lack of specific details about the proposed options, while others felt grateful to have had an opportunity to express their concerns directly to the board.

“A lot of people got to voice their opinions,” said a community member. “I feel like they finally got to be heard, especially those who feel like nobody’s listening to us.”

 Board and facilities committee members are taking into consideration current and future enrollment numbers, budget, availability of school programs offered in the area, safe walking routes, the amount of disruption to students’ learning and community opinion, as well as overall district needs, as they make their decision about WJE.[4] [5] 

“The board is working very hard to gather all information that is needed for us to make a decision, not only for this community but for the district as a whole,” Atwood said.

While the schools in the east quadrant of West Jordan have low enrollment numbers and older buildings, the growth in the west area of West Jordan will necessitate a new elementary to be built in about four years and a new middle school in about six years.

Another town hall meeting to discuss WJE is scheduled for Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. at the school. The final decision about WJE will be made during the General Session Board Meeting Nov. 29.