Park City School Board delays vote on controversial building
Community members filled the Park City School Board’s Oct. 21 meeting, many hoping to express their opposition to a controversial $5.7 million building that would serve as the new home to the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies program, among other purposes.
As it turns out, there was no need. Following a recommendation from Superintendent Ember Conley, the Board voted unanimously to delay the vote on the building until the Master Planning Committee can evaluate the district’s overall needs. That comes after four Board members have expressed support for the building in past meetings.
The lone dissenter when the Board voted to request a proposal for the building in May, Tania Knauer, said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
"I believe that we really need to have a master plan that evaluates all of the capital requirements in the district, and then fairly prioritizes them based on need," Knauer said. "I’m very happy that Dr. Conley made that recommendation to the Board. It was in line with what my beliefs have been on the CAPS building all along."
Board President Maurice Hickey, who has been vocal about wanting the building to be constructed, said several factors played into the Board’s decision to delay the vote.
Chiefly, recent concerns over rising enrollment have elevated the potential need for new facilities throughout the district. A recent review of Treasure Mountain Junior High, for instance, revealed that a renovation may be necessary, and several other schools — all of which the Master Planning Committee are evaluating — may not have the space to deal with the increase in students expected over the next several years. With those concerns having the potential to drain the district’s capital budget, Hickey said it was prudent to await the committee’s findings.
"If all things had remained equal, I believe we probably would have still at least explored going forward with the vote," Hickey said. "I don’t want to say what people would have voted, because I don’t know, but we probably would have continued down that path."
The building has been controversial since it was first proposed. Its most high-profile use would be to house the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies, which also has drawn controversy, in large part because of its $450,000 budget. The proposed building would serve other purposes as well, however. As outlined in a Board meeting earlier this month, it would allow the expansions of several other current programs within the district, including medical, sports science and engineering classes.
Conley said that despite her recommendation that the Board delay the vote, she is still in full support of the PC CAPS program, whose lease in its current building, at 1850 Sidewinder Drive, will expire in 2016 without the option to renew.
"There had been lots of controversy over this program," Conley said, noting the program’s budget is just 1 percent of the district’s total and participation in it is expected to continue to grow. "But the one thing we know is this program is extremely successful. It works and it’s going to continue to work.
"The reality is we’re not letting go of this program. And we know we need a unique space for it."
Still, she said it was necessary for the Master Planning Committee to evaluate and prioritize the district’s needs before a decision on the building is made. She hopes that the evaluation will help critics understand the district is doing its due diligence.
"I think that was needed to stop the momentum of negativity and to really help everyone have a firm understanding," Conley said.
While the findings of the Master Planning Committee must be taken into account before the Board moves forward, there are several possible solutions. Knauer said that if PC CAPS’ success warrants its continuation, an enticing option is to include a wing for it and the other programs in a renovation of Treasure Mountain.
While not ruling it out, Hickey said that might compromise one of the factors that make PC CAPS unique. He said it’s important that both students in the program and the business mentors who advise them feel as though they’re in an office setting, rather than a school.
"Where you physically would locate a building like this if you’re doing that rebuild would be the debating point," he said.
Conley agreed that’s a concern but said creative proposals may be able to get around it.
"I think it’s a consideration," she said. "We know (PC CAPS) needs a unique setting and a unique location. I’ve visually seen the difference of kids coming in and having that office environment. It’s different. But I’m open to ideas."
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