When it comes to applying rules to the public-education system in Utah, some schools are more equal than others.
People take for granted the fact that elementary schools have open playgrounds for children in the neighborhood to enjoy at any time.
But some charter schools, which also are public schools supported by taxpayer dollars, lock up their playgrounds so kids not enrolled in those schools can’t play on the monkey bars, go down the slippery slide or swing.
That’s because, when the Utah State Legislature defined schools as “community centers,” it exempted charter schools.
Community centers, as it applies to schools, are where civic groups can meet, sports clubs can play and little kids can enjoy the school’s play area.
Some neighbors of Northstar Academy, a charter school in Bluffdale, noticed that the school’s playground is fenced and locked. It struck them as strange, since most public schools’ playgrounds are open to the neighborhood.
Chris Bleak of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools said Northstar and other charter schools have chosen to lock their play areas to keep out vandals.
Another reason they lock them is because they can.
It’s another example in what appears to be the charter-school ethic of taking all the advantages of being a public school while getting to act like a private school. Backed by the Legislature, the mantra seems to be: What’s ours is ours, and what’s yours is ours.
“Rolly: Utah’s charter schools get special treatment.” Paul Rolly, Salt Lake Tribune columnist 14 June 2011