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West Valley City Journal

New changes at Jackling for students, teachers and parents

Jan 29, 2020 02:10PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

A STEM lab in progress. Cara Baldree, instructional coach at Jackling, is a former science specialist from the Salt Lake School District and has her science and math endorsements. (Kathryn Elizabeth Jones/City Journals)

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

It wasn’t an easy decision, nor a quick process, but come the 2020-2021 school year, Jackling Elmentary will be taking on new students.

Jackling currently houses 350 students; Carl Sandburg 240, the number they will be losing as the school year closes. “That little pocket of 40 students will go over to Hunter Elementary because [the students] live close to that school. The 200 remaining will come here,” Principal Robyn Roper said. 

Roper, who has been with Jackling for four years, is excited to bring in new students and feels that Jackling will be a positive experience for the newcomers. 

“My teachers overall are excited and feeling positive about the fact that they don’t have to move definitely and they can stay in their building,” Roper said. “I’m sure there’s some anticipation and angst with a new teammate, a new colleague coming into their grade level and new students but I think, overall, the teachers are pretty positive.”

Currently, the school has seven classrooms not in full-functioning use, so there is extra space. But that’s not all. “I’m anticipating that we’ll hire one more teacher per grade level,” Roper said, stating that the school tries “really, really hard not to increase class size.”

The school itself is in good shape, receiving a score from an outside analysis company of 61 out of 100 for its infrastructure. The score was reflective of how the building would hold up during an earthquake, among other things, Roper said. “Sandburg Elementary was given a score of 8. It is a big difference, particularly because [the schools] were built [in the late 60s and] only a year apart.”

“Not only is the population declining in this area, the school enrollments are getting smaller,” Roper said. No longer is there a “high 600, even 700 kids in the school. It’s not fiscally responsible to use the taxpayers’ dollars to leave these buildings open if they’re not operating to capacity.”

Still, “hurt feelings” and “negativity” have come from some according to Roper, who admits that a change like this is an “emotional thing,” no matter what the numbers show.

She knows that some kids attending Jackling for the first time will feel anxious, so she and her leadership team have some plans in the works.

Among the plans include a welcome letter written to every new student from current Jackling students, open houses in the spring, tours of the school for parents and their families, even some big posters that will be hung throughout the school to relay the message, “Welcome, we’re so glad you’re here!” 

“The transportation department has looked at where every student lives over in Sandburg in relation to Jackling and they will do some courtesy bus stops for kiddos that have more than a 10 or 15 minute walk,” Roper said, adding that she and her director have walked the distance themselves and were able to do the walk in 20 minutes. “As a parent myself, I wouldn’t want to send my 8-year-old boy for a 20-minute jaunt in the morning, but a fifth- or sixth-grader would be a walk they certainly could handle.”

Along with ease in getting to school, “we are working hard to improve student learning,” Roper said. “We [also] have a big focus on family engagement.”

A STEM lab opened at Jackling in the fall of 2019. “We are working so hard to provide programs to improve student learning,” Roper said, adding the lab even has “little lab coats the students can put on and goggles. They’re doing a lot of hands-on learning. It is super powerful for student achievement.”

Chromebooks are used by every student at the school. “We are a one-to-one school,” Roper said adding that “students need the technical skills to prepare them for college and career in the 21st century.”

Roper and her leadership team, and even some teachers are making home visits this school year. “We talk about goals for life, [about] their wishes and dreams. Just really trying to get to know them. One of my second-grade teachers, Mrs. Katie Page, has visited every single one of her students. She’s just phenomenal.”

Bridging learning between school and home is important to Roper who believes that the greatest success of a student comes from parents who are involved in their student’s mastery.

Through the 2019-2020 school year, the students, parents and teachers have been taking part in a “Big 3 Night.” 

“A couple of months ago, the school held its first event. Previous to the event the teachers in each grade level identified three big math standards for the year,” Roper said. Getting the parents involved and practicing with the child at home “bridges that academic [gap]. If the students can master these three big math standards, they will be successful in the upcoming grade.”

Jackling Elementary currently offers an after-school choir program and a junior coach’s program with Playworks Coach Morganne Nielsen to teach leadership skills. A science club began in early 2020. “I would certainly like to include band or orchestra, or something with the arts,” Roper said. “As we grow and have more teachers, perhaps we’ll bring in more programs like that.”