MIDVALE — A review panel has recommended that the State School Board extend reprieves to two schools facing sanctions over poor academic performance.
On Friday, the Utah State Board of Education will consider the panel's recommendation to give Midvale Elementary School and Entheos Academy, a charter school in Magna, more time to sufficiently improve their academic performance or face more rigorous action.
In Entheos Academy's case, school closure is a possibility if it does not sufficiently improve, according to the review panel's recommendations.
In 2015, the schools were identified by state education officials as turnaround schools, which means they had three years to improve student proficiency and growth or face sanctions.
Turnaround schools are those in the lowest 3 percent of student achievement statewide as measured by end-of-year tests in math, language arts and science.
Schools identified as a state's lowest performing receive grants and assistance from experts intended to increase student achievement. A school forms a turnaround committee that includes parents, educators, a school administrator and the local school board representative.
Canyons School District's Midvale Elementary, Entheos Academy and Granite School District's Oquirrh Hills Elementary School were part of a cohort of schools identified for turnaround in 2015. None of the three exited that status within three years.
The review panel offered no recommendation regarding Oquirrh Hills Elementary School.
Last month, the Granite School District Board of Education voted to close the school, which board member Gayleen Gandy said "was the best choice that we have. If we look at the other choices, they are much worse in their consequences."
Other consequences included permanently transferring control of the school to a public or nonprofit entity; temporarily appointing a public or nonprofit entity to manage and operate the school; involuntary transferring staff or changing school boundaries.
Granite chose to close the school and redraw boundary lines of nearby schools.
In a letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, Granite School District Superintendent Martin Bates wrote that closing a school "is perhaps one of the most difficult decisions for members of a local board of education to take, both personally and politically."
The administration recommended redrawing boundaries of nearby schools and the closure of the school "believing it to be the absolute best action on behalf of the children of Oquirrh Hills Elementary."
An additional benefit to that decision was boosting the enrollment of adjacent schools, which are below "three to five teachers per grade, generally considered optimum."
Canyons School District took another approach: It asked the State School Board for more time to implement a restructuring plan for Midvale Elementary, which administrators say has already resulted in student growth since it was put in place at the start of the school year.
In December, the State Charter School Board recommended that the State School Board grant an extension to Entheos Academy.
The board also took the step to place the charter school on "warning status," noting its status will be evaluated in a year.Comment on this story
The review panel's recommendations for Midvale Elementary and Entheos Academy call on the schools to undergo new comprehensive needs assessments and root cause analyses and update their school improvement plan.
In Midvale Elementary's case, the panel recommended that the school align its restructuring plan with the results of the needs assessment and root cause analysis.
According to a State School Board press release, nearly 90 percent of 26 schools that entered Utah’s school turnaround program in 2015 met exit criteria or qualified for an extension.