In a Tuesday morning meeting, members of the Park City Board of Education discussed the viability of turning the Winter Sports School (WSS) into a Park City School District charter school. Using a series of models on how the financial aspects of creating charter school would work, the district would be required to invest roughly $16,000, a point of concern for board members.

"Everybody is supportive of the concept," said Moe Hickey, the Park City Board of Education President. "We see the beneifts to the community, but there is a concern as far as the economics. The charter school has to be self-supported, and right now, we need a better handle on numbers on how close or far we are from that."

WSS operates as a full-year high school for students in grades 9 through 12 with an academic calendar opposite from a typical school year, running from mid-April to mid-November. The winter months are the equivalent of a summer break, a schedule that allows the student athletes to train and compete.

Since then, WSS and the PCSD have been in talks, taking tours of facilities and outlining a charter school application. WSS is hoping to rent space in the Park City High SchIn a Tuesday morning meeting, members of the Park City Board of Education discussed the viability of turning the Winter Sports School (WSS) into a Park City School District charter school.


Advertisement

Using a series of models on how the financial aspects of creating charter school would work, the district would be required to invest roughly $16,000, a point of concern for board members.

"Everybody is supportive of the concept," said Moe Hickey, the Park City Board of Education President. "We see the benefits to the community, but there is a concern as far as the economics. The charter school has to be self-supported, and right now, we need a better handle on numbers on how close or far we are from that."

WSS operates as a full-year high school for students in grades 9 through 12 with an academic calendar opposite from a typical school year, running from mid-April to mid-November. The winter months are the equivalent of a summer break, a schedule that allows the student athletes to train and compete.

Since then, WSS and the PCSD have been in talks, taking tours of facilities and outlining a charter school application. WSS is hoping to rent space in the Park City High School for its students.

"Physically we could make it work," said Park City High School Principal Bob O'Connor. "The financial piece has to be figured out by the board. Right now, it looks like a hurdle, at least on paper."

Rob Clayton, the WSS Head of School, said there were changes that needed to occur with the budget, but that he was unwilling to compromise school integrity.

"It went OK but we have to revise some of our financial calculations," Clayton said. "We need to look at out-of-state costs. That's the big one.

"This will be about getting over the first year," he added, "how we will make the first year function. That's the biggest question."

The PCSD anticipated that a new WSS charter school would cost $853,000 to operate between classroom space, school supplies, teachers and utilities. A majority of WSS funding would come from out-of-state students who pay more in tuition and state funding allocated to charter schools. If approved, the state would provide roughly $102,000 just to fund a charter school replacement to the WSS, and the school would continue to receive state funding in future years. But using current budgeting models, first year will cost the district $16,000 worth of locally collected property taxes.

"The revenue portion is the concern," said Todd Hauber, the PCSD Business Administrator. "We need to balance what the state will provide a charter school and the district's actual contribution to a charter school. The whole proposition needs to make financial sense."

"At this point, I haven't seen a scenario yet where there isn't some need of district monies to come in," he added.

The concept to turn WSS into a charter school operating under the Park City School District was an original pet project of former PCSD Superintendent Ray Timothy, who recently took a position at the Utah Education Network. Though the WSS was not interested in early talks, the discussions took a serious tone last spring.

"I wish I knew the answer," Hauber said. "We've spent hours trying to make this financially viable and we haven't struck upon a scenario yet that doesn't require the district to contribute some amount of its property tax to the charter school.

"At this juncture, it doesn't make sense to put this expenditure out there while we're still trying to cover our own programs."

For WSS to join the school district and receive state funding, the school must go through a review process where they receive both local and state approval. The Park City Board of Education will need to approve the first application and then the application can move on to the State Charter School Board where the school could receive state funding and remove tuition costs placed on current students.

The board anticipates making a decision to approve or deny the application later this month.