California invasion? It’s not reflected in Park City School District’s enrollment, though other schools have seen growth.
It’s been a common subject for discussion this summer: rumors of a pandemic-fueled migration filling Park City’s streets, trails and schools with newcomers from the East and West coasts.
Locals talk about increasing class sizes in their children’s schools and seeing cars with California license plates prowl up and down Main Street looking for furniture stores and art studios to outfit the new ski-chalet-turned-COVID-safety-headquarters.
In the Park City School District, at least, recently released data shows that what feels to many Parkites like a population surge doesn’t seem to have brought in droves of new students.
The district’s Oct. 1 school enrollment data shows there are actually 61 fewer students districtwide compared to 2019, with numbers indicating 4,840 students are enrolled. That includes children from preschool up to senior year of high school and incorporates the number of students who graduated last year and are no longer in the system. The data shows that 137 new students this year entered this year, not counting the youngsters who are enrolling for the first time in kindergarten.
“We’re right within that normal sort of standard, pretty much what we predicted,” said Superintendent Jill Gildea at a Board of Education meeting last week. “Certainly not — we didn’t balloon to the size that everybody in the community has been kind of nervous about.”
Those numbers are preliminary and still must be verified by state officials, said business administrator Todd Hauber.
State school funding is partly tied to the number of students a district serves, but Hauber said the slight decline in the overall student population isn’t a sign for worry. The enrollment number is relatively stable and the area’s property values continue to increase, adding to year-over-year revenues, Hauber has said.
“The numbers right now tell me this is no different than any other year,” Hauber said. “Our enrollment is on projection.”
The South Summit School District also saw a slight decline, from 1,699 students to 1,636, according to a district spokesperson. The spokesperson supplied statistics that indicated the vast majority of that decline is due to an increase in homeschooling, which jumped from 55 students in 2019 to 104 students this year.
A North Summit School District official reported the district held steady in 2020, with 1,011 students compared to 1,012 last year.
The story is different, however, at two of the more popular local alternatives to district schools — Park City Day School, an independent private school, and Weilenmann School of Discovery, a public charter school.
Park City Day School has seen what its director of enrollment Kerry Bedell calls significant growth, with 151 students in 2020 compared to 125 in 2019 — a 21% jump.
Bedell said many of the families who have enrolled their students there have relocated to the area because of the pandemic.
“Many people were looking from either coast — not just the California invasion that gets a bad rap,” Bedell said. “So many people aren’t from here originally, of course, they did the same thing. Many people had been vacationing here for years and had thought, maybe at some point we will, and this just moved up their timeline.”
She added that the enrollment has been evenly distributed among grades, lessening the burden on teachers.
At the Weilenmann School of Discovery, a similar enrollment push has led the school to approach its limit.
Executive Director Steve Williams said the school has about 610-615 students this year, roughly 25 more than in 2019.
“I don’t have the history in front of me, but it feels like it, it definitely feels like the biggest bump that we’ve had in our 11 years,” Williams said. He added that the middle school dean told him it was the biggest enrollment jump for that age cohort, as well.
“We’re essentially full as far as what we can have in the building,” Williams said.
He said families have relocated from both coasts, as well as from Texas, but he has also seen an influx of students from closer to home.
The Salt Lake City School District has offered online-only instruction this year, and Williams said some families have opted for the Weilenmann School of Discovery for the flexibility the school offers with in-person, hybrid and remote learning.
Over the years, Park City has had many people of Spanish descent make their home here — perhaps most notably the Zabarte/Martinez family. Vincent Zabarte, a Spanish immigrant, for example, was hailed by The Park Record as “a well-known and highly-respected citizen” and “a well-known miner.”
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