Information in tow, Park City School District readies again for master planning
The Park City School District has spent recent months gathering information from the community and is preparing to kick the next phase of its master-planning process into gear.
Following the defeat of the district’s $56 million bond proposal that would have funded an expansion to Park City High School, a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders and athletic facilities improvements, among other items, the Park City Board of Education has sought to learn more about why the bond failed and what residents would want from a future proposal.
The Board in recent months commissioned a Salt Lake City-based firm to conduct a wide-ranging telephone survey to gather input from residents and held multiple community outreach and focus group sessions. Some members also met with several of the leaders of a group that campaigned against the bond last fall in an effort to gather information.
Phil Kaplan, a member of the Park City Board of Education, said that he, for one, has emerged with a new understanding of what the community deems important.
"The first thing I said after (the bond failed) was clearly we had bad information," he said. "I’m a big believer in getting a lot of data, then study and study — measure twice and cut once. We didn’t do that — granted I came in sort of pretty far along on this thing — but now I feel like we have really done our homework. We’re going to continue to do our homework before trying to move any kind of a major plan forward."
Kaplan added that there are two issues that have resonated with him above everything else he has learned since the election.
"One is that we really need to separate whatever investment we propose to make in athletics from academics and make sure that whatever happens with academics just gets done," he said. "That’s critical. Second is, I don’t think anybody has the appetite to try to move Dozier Field. That just seems like a dead letter. I’ll speak for myself: I won’t support it. I think there was a misunderstanding of sort of the cultural history of Park City, and that’s important to people."
Additionally, Kaplan said, it’s clear that there is broad support among residents to move ninth-graders into Park City High School and to tear down Treasure Mountain Junior High, which has long been plagued by structural and design problems. Further master-planning discussions are likely to include both measures as key components.
"The next phase of planning has to start with the need to move the ninth grade into the high school and do something with Treasure," Kaplan said. "The rest of it, I think we’ll just revisit it with all of the information we now have, which is a lot more than what we had last year."
Nancy Garrison, who also serves on the Board, declined to speculate about how the Board may move forward but agreed that the information gathered in the survey and outreach sessions has been valuable. She said it has been particularly helpful to hear from a diverse group of residents, comprising people of different demographics and people who had varied opinions on last fall’s bond.
"Understanding the issues with the bond absolutely will serve us, in not only understanding how we need to recraft a facilities plan, but it will also contribute to thinking about funding," she said, "because we have a whole new understanding of what taxpayers are valuing."
The Board was set to discuss the survey and outreach efforts in its public meeting on Tuesday morning. Kaplan said the Board will then talk about ideas on what steps to take next at a retreat scheduled for March 15. The goal is to eventually come up with a plan that has wide-ranging support from residents.
Kaplan added that he hopes to enlist the help of many of the people who participated in master-planning discussions in 2014 and last year in the coming months, but new voices should also be a part of the process.
"It would be silly, considering how hard (the people previously involved) worked, to reinvent the entire wheel, but it would also be good to have some fresh blood, including people that had been opposed to the plan moving forward," he said. "We’re going to talk about that process on the 15th."
Separately, but in conjunction with master planning, Kaplan is heading up a strategic-planning process for the district, focusing on how the district should prioritize its programming and academic efforts. He said the intent is to find what the community wants out of its education system, allowing the district to then mold its master-planning efforts around those desires.
"I feel like it’s kind of a horse and cart thing going on," he said. "Now we’re getting the things in the right order."
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