Park City Board of Education considers high school expansion process
With an apparent community consensus around expanding Park City High School to accommodate ninth graders and eventually tearing down Treasure Mountain Junior High, the Park City Board of Education is considering its next steps.
The Board last week in a public meeting discussed options for moving forward with the high school expansion and what to do with the junior high until the expansion is completed.
Superintendent Ember Conley recommended that the Board form a design team of community and district stakeholders to begin looking at expansion options. She also urged members to give the district authority to hire an architect in the near future to begin drawing up plans. The goal would be to have four plans for expansion — one in each direction — completed by November or December for the community to consider. The final option would then be recommended to the Board next spring.
Board member Phil Kaplan said a design team will soon be convened, but no decision has been made about whether to bring in an architect this early.
"Whether you hire the architect or do some other steps first is kind of still open for discussion internally," he said. "But the next step is to get a design team together and, ultimately, bring in the community for massive engagement.
"We want much more engagement than happened last round," he added, referring to the district’s failed $56 million bond campaign last fall. " Ultimately multiple options and choices will be put out to the public and we’ll have a lot of input into a decision."
The Board also discussed the fate of Treasure Mountain Junior High. The district views the school as beyond its useful life, and intends to demolish it in the coming years, but will have to spend money to keep it hospitable for students in the near-term. Kaplan said no good alternatives have been presented for housing eighth and ninth graders until the high school is expanded.
The Board will have to spend about $155,000 to replace the school’s fire sprinkler heads and fire alarm system to keep the building safe. The district has said options such as housing the students in trailers would cost several times more than that.
"There’s virtually no chance we’re going to take it down now," Kaplan said. "That just doesn’t make sense. We’ve warned the community that we’re at that point in the building’s life cycle where the costs start to escalate, and this is just one of those escalating costs."
With ninth graders heading to the high school in coming years, and Treasure Mountain marked for eventual demolition, the district must also decide what to do with eighth graders. Additionally, looming grade realignment has put the future of older elementary students in flux.
All four elementary school principals have recommended to the Board that it build a new school for fifth and sixth graders at the site of Ecker Hill Middle School, which would house seventh and eighth graders. Many in the community, however, have said they’d prefer a new elementary school or additions to the existing ones, both of which would allow students to remain in neighborhood schools through sixth grade.
Some Board members during the meeting expressed a desire to strongly consider the recommendation of the principals, but the Board did not discuss a firm process for making that decision.
How to finance whichever projects the district ultimately decides on has not been determined. The district has substantial capital reserves that could be used to fund part or all of the projects, and the Board could also seek another bond measure.
Kaplan said financing decisions will be made once the community has rallied behind the district’s plans.
"The idea is you line up a large amount of support before you’re under the time pressure of an election," he said. "We get community support lined up, then if it were to go to another election cycle, we’re not out trying to sell a plan. We know who’s supporting the plan."
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