Glendale/Mountain View Community Learning Center broadens early childhood educational opportunities

Story and photos by ELLIE COOK

Within the streets of the western neighborhoods of Salt Lake City, Navajo Street stands out because it is not your typical neighborhood block. Sitting in between Mountain View Elementary and Glendale Middle School lies the Community Learning Center. A place with a plethora of services for the locals, it also houses the Salt Lake City School District Early Childhood Program (ECP). For decades, the ECP headquarters has sat within the main district building in downtown Salt Lake City. However, moving the office has allowed easier access for families, and assisted in a significant expansion of classrooms and various educational opportunities.

The community center offers various education options for children and their families. More hands-on curriculum has been introduced, which allows the parents and children to learn together.

The program is recognized by Utah State Office of Education as a High-Quality Program. Though the district provides early childhood programs across the Salt Lake Valley, it centers its attention toward Title-1 schools. As time went on, the program became more needed, but that caused overcrowding. Families were being turned away because all classrooms were at the maximum of 18 kids. This left financially strapped parents with few other options. “Families require some type of care/schooling for their child. Preschool programs are much more productive than throwing their child in a daycare,” said Ann Cook, former director of the ECP. So, what could be done to provide for more families?

After much contemplation and planning, in 2012 the  board of education decided to construct a 30,000-square-foot facility to serve the west-side community and house the headquarters for the early childhood program.

Cook and her colleagues helped oversee the construction to assure the center provided a beneficial layout for their classroom and office needs. This included more/larger classrooms, garden beds, larger playgrounds, and appliances such as sinks, toilets and water stations that accommodated 3-4-year-olds. Lastly, it allowed the ECP to create a spacious office area to serve the community. “Moving our office from the main district building allowed us to assist our patrons much easier by making it more accessible for families who live on the west side,” Cook said.

By 2013, the dream center had become a reality. Since then, the ECP has been able to assist many more families and host various programs. The center has occupied multiple pre-kindergarten (half-day and full-day) classrooms, four kindergartens, and a Head Start room for infants.

The center sits between Mountain View Elementary and Glendale Middle School. There are various services offered within the center, including a public kitchen, a food pantry and dental office.

With the sudden growth of classrooms needing occupants, the expansion opened the doors for employment as teachers and paraprofessionals were in short supply. “We are a pretty amazing program with wonderful teaching staff. Our teachers are dedicated to supporting the students within our district,” said Teacher Specialist Robyn Johnson. Usually, classes have one teacher and one paraprofessional. Many of them are bilingual, mainly in Spanish and English. The ECP recognizes that it serves a large Hispanic community and therefore needs to ensure everything is communicated correctly, and respectfully. This applies to the classrooms and the main office. Communicating in more than one language is essential in a classroom setting, especially if English is not the child’s first language.

With such success with this center, this leaves room for potential expansions for the ECP. “We would love to provide more opportunities for pre-k. Families have asked for more full-day opportunities and we have been able to add a few more sites to meet their requests. Ideally, we would love funding for universal pre-k to support all families,” Johnson said. Currently, due to financial constraints, families are forced to pay on a sliding scale.

Three community learning centers are now operated at Mountain View/Glendale, Liberty Elementary (formally known as Lincoln Elementary), and Rose Park Elementary. However, the facilities are not as expansive as the one at Glendale/Mountain View. The district has already begun planning for the construction of even more community learning centers. These expansions would hopefully be able to grant more space for the ECP. Until then, Salt Lake City School District early childhood programs remain at other schools in the Salt Lake area. If interested, families may still register per usual.

How to Enroll?

Registration for the 2020-21 school year begins Feb. 26, 2020. Visit the website or call 801-974-8396.

 

Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program: bringing art back into the classroom

Story and photo by JOSH SOUTAS

Elementary school students, due to a greater focus on core subjects, have seen their arts programs shrink and almost disappear. The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) is focusing on bringing art back into the classroom.

The BTSALP serves more than 200,000 students in 300 schools across 31 school districts in the state of Utah, including 21 schools across the Salt Lake City School District.

The program, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is administered statewide through the Utah State Office of Education.

According to the website, BTSALP collaborates with deans and staff from the state’s universities to train and provide art specialists to the elementary schools. Those teachers, who are paid for by the organization, help faculty integrate art into their core lesson plans. The specialists also hold weekly art classes that focus on visual art, dance, music and theater, the four disciplines that are sponsored by BTSALP. The program incorporates these different forms of art as a unique approach to reinforce the core curriculum.

The organization reports on its website that student performance is increased in every subject, from language arts and math to social studies and science.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the schools that benefits from the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the schools that benefits from the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

Mountain View Elementary is one of the 21 schools in Salt Lake City that participates in BTSALP. Kindergartners to fifth graders are introduced to dancing.

Principal Kenneth Limb said his students integrate science into their dance class. “Our fourth graders learn about land forms, and in their dance class they will use dance moves to depict land forms,” Limb said in a phone interview.

North Star Elementary, located in North Salt Lake, has been part of BTSALP for two years.

The school’s visual arts teacher, who started part time, moved to full-time employment after Principal Lew Gardiner saw the impact visual arts had on the students. North Star covers the other half of her salary that is not paid by BTSALP.

“Kids learn in different ways,” Gardiner said in a phone interview. “The BTSALP gives kids a different opportunity to shine and grow because of art, where in the traditional classroom they might not have that chance. Art is key when it comes to learning.”

Janelle Wride, visual arts teacher at Lincoln Elementary, said in a phone interview she believes that creativity is one of the main reasons that art needs to be in the classroom.

After nine years of teaching at the Salt Lake City school, Wride has seen how integrating the arts with the core subjects has made the curriculum more memorable and relevant to students.

Wride said another benefit she has seen in her schools is that art has no language barrier.

“It gives many of the kids in my school whose first language isn’t English a chance to participate, where in the classroom they don’t get that opportunity as often because of the language barrier. It lets the teachers see them in a different light,” Wride said.

She said she also likes to invite faculty into her classroom when she is teaching their students visual art.

“This program is functioning at its best when there is co-teaching, when the teacher is doing artwork with their own students. It gives the students a ‘we are all in this together’ feeling,” Wride said.

Wride also works with a large ethnic diversity and takes culture into consideration when planning lessons.

“Our fourth grade has a lot of Polynesian students, so I decided to incorporate Polynesian art forms into the lesson for that week,” Wride said. “And the Polynesian students really responded, it was interesting to see how well they reacted because they knew what I was teaching about related to them and their culture.”

Peggy Patterson, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Salt Lake City, said in a phone interview that BTSLAP provides instructors who teach the arts in a way that her teachers cannot.

Patterson also said her music classes have helped the kids with math and science. The students use the beats in music to help them with addition and subtraction.

She has seen the fun that the arts can bring to the core curriculum.

“Every semester we have an informance — not a performance — but an informance, where parents and family are invited to see their kids perform and what they have been working on all semester in the classroom,” Patterson said.

Patterson said she believes that Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program has accomplished what it was created to do — better help students learn core subjects through the use of art.