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Parents ask SLC school district not to close Bennion

SALT LAKE CITY — Several upset parents are hoping they can convince the Salt Lake School District not to close M. Lynn Bennion Elementary School.  They say they feel blindsided that a potential closure was even a possibility.

For some parents, like Margaret Bleackbear, Bennion Elementary School is part of their family’s identity.

“My family has been going there for three generations,” she says, adding, “My son feels safe there.  He’s comfortable there.  He loves his teacher there.  He loves going to school.  All the neighborhood kids go there, so he can see all his friends.”

Other community members urged the district to keep the school open, despite shrinking enrollment.  They say it serves a number of kids who live in transitional housing or are homeless, as well as children who live at the YWCA Crisis Shelter.

Even some teachers at the school say they were stunned to hear Bennion, located at 429 East 800 South in Salt Lake City, was potentially on the chopping block.  Laura Bergen says she’s been teaching there for over 30 years, and she only heard about the possible shutdown a couple weeks ago.  She believes, with planning, Bennion could see higher enrollment and more engagement from the public.

“Bennion could be the jewel in the crown of this district,” Bergen says.

However, enrollment is extremely low at Bennion, and district officials have no reason to believe it will get any better.  District Spokesperson Yandary Chatwin says there are only 213 kids at Bennion currently, while other schools have more than 600.

“Our school board hired a demographic company to do a 20-year study and our numbers are projected to go down at Bennion and a few of our other schools,” Chatwin says.

The board has not scheduled when they would vote on the recommendation to close the school.