North Summit sees growth, but facilities are fine
Worries about enrollment growth pushed the Park City School District into asking voters to support a $56 million bond for new facilities this fall. Similar concerns about growth have the South Summit School District beginning its own master-planning process.
The North Summit School District is not immune either, it seems. But unlike at the other two districts, the growth North Summit is experiencing is not cause for quick action. Superintendent Jerre Holmes said the district’s facilities are well-equipped to handle an unexpected but small surge in enrollment this year.
"We have been right around 1,000 students in our district for the 15 years that I’ve been here," Holmes said. "It’s hovered a little below or a little above that 1,000 the whole time. And this year, we have about 1,040, so this is the first time we’ve experienced a little growth, but certainly not growth that would require any kind of building. We’re not even close to that point.
But that doesn’t mean the district is without its challenges. Securing enough funding is one of the primary difficulties North Summit faces, as a rural district. It primarily struggles to keep the maintenance and operations fund fully replenished, Holmes said.
The district may have found a unique way to ease some of that burden. It is considering investing about $225,000 to replace the lighting in its buildings with more energy-efficient LED lights as part of the Summit Community Power Works energy project. That initial investment would come from the capital fund — where the district is healthier — but the savings would benefit maintenance and operations, the money used to pay the electric bill.
law, the district isn’t allowed to transfer money at its own discretion between the capital fund and maintenance and operations, but that, in essence, would do the trick.
According to estimates, the district would save about $30,000 a year with the new lighting, Holmes said.
"$30,000 is almost Step 1 of our teacher salary schedule," he said. "It’s almost the value of a first-year teacher. That certainly doesn’t count their benefit package, but that amount of money in our district is big. That’s a lot of aides, a lot of professional training that we could do that we typically don’t have a lot of extra money laying around for. In a lot of districts, that money wouldn’t sound like a lot of savings but for us it’s big."
Holmes added that the district recently completed its annual audit. Overall, the district is in good financial shape as far as operations, but there remains little money for extras.
"We aren’t healthy by any means as far as being able to just get whatever we want, but we’re in decent shape," he said. "You have to say that very carefully because we wish we could compensate our people what they’re worth. So to say we’re in good shape depends on what your definition of that is. But we’re keeping up with what we need to do. I still hope the day will come when I get to see teachers compensated like they should be and I wish we could do that."
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Debate continues about schooling in a pandemic, as Park City students petition to stay in school, 78% of secondary teachers opt for remote, and case numbers remain low ahead of a feared post-Thanksgiving spike.