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60% want kids in class during S.L. Olympics

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Sixty percent percent of parents surveyed by the Granite School District say they want their children in school or released only part of the time during the 2002 Winter Games.

Some 40 percent want schools in the state's largest school district closed throughout the Games, the survey showed.While the results express no clear mandate, Granite Board of Education President Lynn Davidson said the numbers reflect parents' uncertainty about the events.

"I think there's a message to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that at least the parents in the Granite School District don't perceive many opportunities for their children to view, live at the site, the actual Olympic events," Davidson said.

"If they can't get to the sites and have to watch TV at home, why not leave them in the classroom?" he said.

Earlier this week, SLOC officials outlined a number of programs to be implemented in advance of the Games. The experiences include field trips to venues during 1999, a multiyear "Cool Winter Games" art project to Olympics-related curriculum.

As for the Games themselves, SLOC is attempting to raise more than $3 million for its Olympics for Youth and Children Fund through the sale of 2002 Olympic Winter Games license plates. Proceeds are to purchase tickets and "games-related experiences for Utah children."

With former Granite High School principal Diane Hesleph leading SLOC's education programs, they should be top-notch, Davidson said. Hesleph worked for the Granite School District 18 years.

Thus far, SLOC officials have not communicated to school officials "anything worth letting the students out," Davidson said.

"What are they going to do, just roam the streets? What are there, 200,000 students in the Salt Lake, Ogden and Provo area? What are they going to do if they are out of school?" he queried.

Shelley Thomas, SLOC senior vice president of communications and community affairs, said Games officials have concluded an extensive budgeting process.

"We're planning all aspects of the Games as quickly as we can," she said.

Absent firm information about activities, Granite School officials plan to build a 2001-2002 academic calendar that contemplates three scenarios: school in session through the 2002 Games; school closed throughout the 2002 Games or schools closed during part of the Games, said Tim Dyson, student services director.

Ultimately, the school board will have to adopt a calendar.

Both the University of Utah and Weber State University plan to recess classes during the Games. The Salt Lake Board of Education is contemplating a similar move.

A resolution passed by the Utah Legislature recommends schools close for at least part of the 2002 Games.

Games officials have made no such requests or recommendations, Thomas said.

"We feel there will be wonderful opportunities for memorable experiences during the Games for children, whether they have tickets to events, whether they just experience the Olympics in the streets; we're not asking for or advocating or recommending any school closures," Thomas said.

According to a SLOC press release issued Sept. 2, a statewide Education Advisory Committee has been formed "to ensure consensus in the Utah education committee, with representation from school boards and superintendents at university, secondary and elementary levels, as well as students and parent/teacher associations.

Davidson said SLOC officials also need to meet with the affected bodies to assist their planning efforts.

Granite Superintendent Steve Ronnenkamp said he viewed the calendar survey as "just a first indication. It's something that needs to be studied more.. . . There are a lot of unanswered questions."