The leaders of Park City High School's Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PCCAPS) program were preaching to the choir as they ushered Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert through a maze of leased classrooms in Prospector Square on Wednesday. Touting the state's expanding business landscape and well-educated workforce are two of his favorite topics, so listening to a student explain his prototype for a bomb-sniffing robot as part of an innovative partnership between the school and Hill Air Force Base made him beam from ear to ear.
Indeed, Park City School District leaders and patrons should be extremely proud of the new program which is already working with 140 businesses (including Adobe, Skullcandy, Rockwell Collins and the Heber airport) and has a waiting list of additional companies hoping to outsource special projects to the next generation of engineering and design whizzes.
PCHS students in the PCCAPS program accept assignments from private businesses and then work with volunteer mentors and local teachers to complete assignments that may well put them on a successful career path.
But the program, which is in its inaugural year, may soon face an unwelcome roadblock. The rented space on Sidewinder Drive is already crowded and with the program's reputation going viral, school administrators anticipate a big bulge in the student pipeline. To accommodate that next round of entrepreneurial students, the Park City Board of Education on Tuesday will consider a proposal to build a new multipurpose building with space dedicated to, among other uses, a permanent home for the PCCAPS program.
As proposed, the building would be located on school district property near the Learning Center on Kearns Blvd. and cost approximately $5.5 million. The facility would take some pressure off the existing school district headquarters by providing space for professional development training and school board meetings and would eliminate the need to lease off-campus space, which currently costs the district about $76,000-plus, per year.
As popular as the program is, however, there has been some well-founded resistance to making that kind of investment, driven mainly by a one-year-old specialty program when other capital needs are also under consideration. According to a recent audit of the school district's facilities, Treasure Mountain Middle School is in need of significant repairs, the high school is nearing capacity and there may soon be a need for another elementary school in the district.
There is no doubt the district has hit a home run with the PCCAPS program. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised to hear the governor holding it up as a model for the whole state. But the plan to combine a PCCAPS home with an assortment of administrative uses may not be the best solution.
The Park City School District may be able to afford to build a facility with an eye toward expanding the PCCAPS program, but it should first ask whether that is the district's most critical need and whether there is a better way to accomplish that goal while also serving the educational needs of the most students possible.
The Park City Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday, May 20, at 4 p.m. at the district office, 2700 Kearns Boulevard. A vote on whether to approve the multipurpose/PCCAPS building is anticipated.