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Granite High to close in current location

Decision is expected to save the district $1.3M in annual operating costs

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Granite High School will cease to exist in its current location this fall, a move Granite School Board members deemed necessary to meet needed budget cuts for the coming school year.

The board voted 4-3 late Tuesday night to close the school.

District staff presented data pinpointing lagging enrollment, lack of academic rigor and high overhead costs.

"We have a great sense of responsibility in making all of our students succeed," said board president Sarah Meier. She voted for the closure.

Others believe the school is working well and needs support. "Closing a school is literally the last place to go to balance a budget," said board member Dan Lofgren. He voted against the measure.

The budget cuts, including the Granite High closure, were recommended by Granite District Superintendent Stephen Ronnenkamp. "This has probably been the most difficult thing I have done," he said.

Granite District needed to cut $28 million from its proposed 2009-10 budget which goes into effect on July 1. The district had already slashed $25 million but needed to pare another $3.4 million.

Closing Granite High, 3305 S. 500 East, will save the district $1.3 million in annual operating costs.

Ronnenkamp emphasized this doesn't mean the Granite High building will be torn down. "That certainly is not the intent of the recommendation," he said.

South Salt Lake officials, as well as Salt Lake County representatives, have expressed interest in using the building for office and recreation purposes.

The Granite High program will move to the district's alternative school facility, Granite Peaks High School. "Alternative isn't a bad word," said board member Julene Jolley.

Board member Gayleen Gandy said, "These students can be successful wherever they go."

Granite High is a magnet program with 12 teachers instructing 295 students from throughout the district.

Seventy-five percent of Granite High students are on free or reduced lunch; 53 percent are minority students; 37 percent are English language learners, and 33 percent don't have parents or siblings who graduated from high school.

There is a 47 percent student mobility rate, according to data collected by the school.

The Newcomers program at Granite High helps transition students who are new to the country and are learning to speak English.

E-mail: astewart@desnews.com