Community treks nearly 5 miles to advocate for west-side high school in Salt Lake City

May 28, 2024, 9:43 PM | Updated: 11:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly two hours and 4.8 miles: That’s what it takes to walk from East High School to Glendale Middle School, and the walk that over 50 students, parents and community members embarked on Tuesday.

The walk was organized to raise awareness and demonstrate support for their hopes for the Salt Lake City School District to build a high school in Glendale.

While about 47% of the district’s students live west of Interstate 15, there is no high school located on the west side of the freeway.

This causes problems for many students looking to take part in extracurricular activities, advocates for the new high school explained.

“It’s very difficult because for a lot of our community members on the west side, they don’t have access to a second car. And a lot of the parents do end up working when kids go to school,” said Jorge Jimenez, a spokesman with the Utah Community Advocate Network.

“We have students that want to be involved, that want to be at school, but because of all these other numerous challenges, aren’t able to,” he said. “It would be really helpful if they had a new school in their community.”

The district is home to three high schools — East High School, West High School, and Highland High School — all located on the east side of I-15.

To that note, Tuesday’s crowd chanted, “What do we want? Glendale High!” and, “A high school in Glendale!” as they marched down the sidewalk.

Students, parents and community members walked about 5 miles from East High School to Glendale Middle School to demonstrate support for a high school in Glendale in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Students, parents and community members walked about 5 miles from East High School to Glendale Middle School to demonstrate support for a high school in Glendale in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Still, the district’s plans for a high school west of I-15, at this point, look less than promising. Last week, the district’s school board was presented with a feasibility study regarding a new high school that shed doubt on its possibility.

The study highlighted a projected decline in student enrollment over the next decade and the challenges of securing a lot large enough for a new high school on the west side as the main cruxes to building a new school.

A geographic distribution in the report shows several areas west of I-15 had the highest levels of enrollment density, specifically in the neighborhoods between I-15 and I-215, near the airport and in west Salt Lake City.

The report shows the district’s school-age population dropped from 15% in 2010 to 12% in 2023. The average population per household declined by 6% since 2010, making it approximately 2.34 people per household, and it is projected to drop to 2.28 by 2034.

“In order to build a comprehensive high school of the caliber similar to what we have right now … you need at least 30 acres. That’s enough land to have all the programs and extracurriculars and athletics and things like that that we would want to offer to our students,” Yándary Chatwin, district spokeswoman said. “There is nowhere in the city — in the Glendale area, Poplar Grove even —where there are 30 acres of land that we can build something on. So that’s the roadblock we’re at right now.”

But Tuesday’s walkers want the district to think creatively to secure a parcel of land big enough for a new school, suggesting it could be done through a public-private partnership.

Brandi Yanagui, a member of the Utah Community Advocate Network who is from Glendale herself, said it’s not only important to have a west-side school for proximity reasons but also to give parents who live on the west side the opportunity to participate in their children’s education.

Yanagui added that many west-side students don’t feel accepted and celebrated at the district’s three high schools.

“A lot of our students don’t feel welcome in East High School. They feel out of place. They don’t feel that their backgrounds, their culture and ethnicities are welcomed here or taken into account,” Yanagui said. “They want a new school where they can make each other feel welcome, feel safe, make sure that it’s a place where they want to be at, and also a place close to home where they don’t have to go through scary walks in the winter in the cold … just to get to school, just to get an education.”

For Glendale resident Tersaa Molina, a new high school on the west side would simply mean more opportunities for the students that reside there.

“I’ve seen, for generations, our children missing a lot of opportunities for after-school programs, for sports, for advanced placement because those classes happen after hours. They have to go back home, and it’s very hard to come back due to the distance,” Molina said. “I’m a grandmother. I want children to have the opportunity,” Molina said.

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Community treks nearly 5 miles to advocate for west-side high school in Salt Lake City