Last week I had the honor of speaking with Principal Anne Reese in her office for nearly an hour at Morningside Elementary. Through the course of our conversation Principal Reese spoke openly and frankly about the issues confronting the most important remaining Elementary school in Holladay, Utah District Four. Given my own children recently attended Morningside elementary and given Morningside Elementary is in danger of being shut down, I was eager to hear what Principal Reese had to say.

When asked directly what the most important issues facing the school are, Principal Reese began the conversation with a frank and courageous discussion about the dangers of a potential mass shooting on school grounds. At the time Morningside was built, I learned, no one even considered the possibility someone might enter a school with a loaded weapon and then attempt to kill as many human beings as possible. As a consequence, none of the existing class room doors or windows at Morningside can effectively keep out a potential shooter. When asked what she needs to lesson the risks faced by our own children, the principal immediately responded that there is a desperate need for panic buttons in each class room allowing upgraded bullet proof doors to be locked form the inside and for roller shades to also be immediately be drawn to make it impossible for a mass shooter to see inside the class room. When asked how the school is attempting make these upgrades, the Principal indicated that while she is uncertain how much an upgrade would cost, she also realizes there is currently not sufficient funds available within the existing budget to make the desired upgrades. I indicated to the Principal that I have a great deal of experience tracking down grant monies, and if I am elected, I would love for her to provide a cost estimate for the desired upgrades to that I might search high and low for the needed funding.

Another issue Principal Reese and I discussed is the obvious fact nearby Springlane elementary was recently closed and as a result Morningside is also in grave danger of being shuttered. In the current moment, while property values in my district are skyrocketing, our populations is also aging rapidly and our residents are having fewer and fewer children. Were yet another local school shuttered, however, such a loss would also lesson the property values of our residents. Communities in which there are not well preforming local schools to attend, for example, also tend to lose value over the long run. To date the schools in my district have compensated by creatively “thinking outside the box.” The schools in our district, for example, have a high tax base and wealthy children who test well. Realizing there are many local children from outside our boundaries who could benefit from attending Morningside, school officials have responded by openly welcoming out of boundary students –whom in the current moment constitute roughly fifty percent of the existing student body. Given the high numbers of out of boundary students, however, there currently is no drop off location where large numbers of vehicles can easily pull in and out without also clogging local roads Compounding matters, the previously designed drop off; is now estimated to cost in excess of one million dollars–a hard sell to make in a time local schools are being shuttered.

When questioned what she is doing to keep Morningside Elementary open, the principal responded she is fighting tooth and nail to not only keep the school open but to also make it clear to School Board officials, we will all lose if Morningside is closed. Given Principal Reese’s obvious tenacity, smarts and guts I believe this woman, and if elected, I will do everything in my power to back her up.