It’s back-to-school season in Utah. On City Cast Salt Lake, we talked with sixth grade teacher John Arthur about school closures, new leadership at Salt Lake City school district, and how teachers are feeling as they open their classroom doors this year.
How are you thinking about potential school closures in Salt Lake City due to low enrollment?
“Every school closure means there are suddenly students who need a new home. It's a complicated issue. School is such a critical piece of our community, and it's where people go for not just education but services. This is where people come when they need help with getting connected to medical care, and getting their kid glasses, and food insecurity. They also know that we are a building full of trusted adults who will go out of our way to try and connect them with whatever it is that they are looking for.
“But at the same time, when you've got dwindling enrollment numbers, if your school suddenly gets an influx of children, that's also an influx of funding. That means more teachers and resources coming into that school. So some people are looking at this issue and thinking, ‘how do we not get left out as more attention and resources are focused on the places that are most impacted?’”
What do you want to see from new superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Grant?
“I wanna see the same thing I wanna see from any leader. First, and foremost, I wanna see empathy for the situation and humans that she's coming in to work with. The majority of our students are not Caucasian. It's beautifully diverse and culturally rich here.
"I'm really heartened by the credentials that Dr. Grant is bringing to the table. Her level of experience and the fact that she does come from here [having previously worked in Salt Lake City School District]. The best thing she can do, and that I've seen her doing, is talking with administrators and other people in our district and asking them: ‘What do you need? What has worked? What needs to be fixed?’ She's been listening to folks, and I hope she just continues on in that spirit.”
What is the best way we can show up for teachers and students this school year?
“What other job do professionals have to go on and say, ‘Hey, I'm going to work tomorrow. I need a stapler, tape, and water bottles, who can help me out?’ So as you see those lists, help 'em out, but also recognize when it comes time to vote, pay attention to funding during the legislative session for folks who are prioritizing funding for teachers in classrooms.
“At the same time, we don't just need supplies — we need support. And no one's leaving the profession because they don't have enough pencils. They're leaving because they don't have enough people standing up in our defense.”
Listen for the full interview 👇