Park City Board of Education considers moving ahead with master planning

After conversations with community members, teachers and administrators this fall, the Park City School District determined its strategic plan. Now, master planning is beginning to take place.

The Park City Board of Education recently named Nick Salmon as a consultant as it decides its master plan, which will help determine what facilities are needed to serve all students. With a master plan, the Board hopes to gather data about the characteristics and educational vision of the schools and the community in order to determine if a bond is necessary and, if so, how best to gain community support.

Salmon, founder and president of the Collaborative Learning Network for educational professionals, spoke via video call at the Board of Education’s meeting on Dec. 19. He said that the district would benefit by gathering even more data, but that it can move forward with master planning and a bond measure if it wants to.

“You have almost all the information you really need to move ahead, and really it comes down to what pace you want to move ahead,” he said.

Salmon did, however, suggest that the district wait at least until it has its future enrollment forecast, which will be finalized in January, before making any decisions. Also, he said the mapping of student locations should take place before plans are made.

He also expressed concerns about the current state of the Board given the fact that the superintendent, Ember Conley, recently announced that she will be leaving the district at the end of June. Salmon said that the Board could hire a superintendent who could then learn about the community during the planning process, or that the Board could wait until the superintendent has his or her feet under them before moving forward with planning.

Petra Butler, a member of the Board, voiced reservations during the meeting about the possibility that the desire to go to bond in 2018 is moving the master planning process forward, even though the district might need more time to lay out its plan.

“If that means we don’t bond in ’18 and we bond in ’19, so be it,” she said. “I don’t want the focus to be on the bond.”

In an interview a week before the meeting, Andrew Caplan, president of the Board, said that the Board recognizes that and is trying to complete the master-planning process before making any decisions about a bond.

“We might get through planning and the community might say that we are fine with the buildings we have,” he said. “We will make that call once we get to that point.”

The announcement earlier this month of Park City Municipal’s plan to acquire 50 percent of the Treasure development, which hinges on voters approving a $24 million bond in Novermber, could make a 2018 school bond less palatable for residents, Caplan said. Still, he said that it is not a disappointment since the district has made no decision about a potential bond of its own.

“Whether or not we bond will be confirmed by the community rather than what other entities are doing,” he said.

During the district meeting, Salmon expressed concerns that moving forward on a bond prematurely could prove disastrous.

“It might lead you down a similar path that you’ve been down several times in the last few years,” he said, referencing previous failed efforts to pass a bond for facilities, most notably in 2015. “If you say we are going to engage in a planning process, we are going to await the result and see what that tells us, then we have plenty of time to determine if that has facility impact or not.”

Still, the Board does not want to lose the momentum gained throughout the strategic planning process during the fall. But Salmon said that there are ways to keep the community involved without moving immediately forward.

“I’ve heard from several people that the fall of ‘18 does not make a lot of sense for a vote, but it might make a lot of sense for connecting with your community about your future,” Salmon said.

The Board decided that it will continue the conversation about master planning during its work session on Jan. 9 and regular session on Jan. 16.


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