Park City School District might pump brakes on realignment | ParkRecord.com

Park City School District might pump brakes on realignment

Fifth- and ninth-graders in the Park City School District may not be joining new schools quite as early as they had planned.

The Park City Board of Education was set to vote Tuesday on Superintendent Ember Conley’s recommendation that grade realignment be delayed one year, until the 2017-2018 school year. Under the realignment, the four elementary schools will accommodate preschool through fourth grades, fifth through eighth grades will be housed on the Ecker Hill campus and Park City High School will hold grades nine through 12.

The delay would allow time for the construction of the proposed new fifth- and sixth-grade school at the Ecker Hill campus and a wing to be built onto Park City High School to accommodate ninth graders. Those two projects are among several spurred by grade realignment that the district is asking voters to help fund in a $56 million bond up for election in November.

Under Conley’s plan, fifth-graders would remain in their current elementary schools next year, while Treasure Mountain Junior High would still house eighth- and ninth-graders. The school is slated for demolition following the construction of the new fifth/sixth school and the high school wing.

Phil Kaplan, a member of the Park City Board of Education, said he supported Conley’s recommendation. The delay would minimize the number of school transitions students have to make and their exposure to the construction.

"What we’re trying to do is strike a balance between rolling out what is a sensible grade realignment program as soon as possible with having enough time to have prudent management and oversight of a major construction project," he said. "I think we’re able to do that."

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Importantly, all-day kindergarten, which was tied to grade realignment, would still happen in the 2016-2017 school year. The district views all-day kindergarten as a crucial ingredient in narrowing the achievement gap and has been adamant that it be implemented as soon as possible.

"One of the reasons for all-day kindergarten is the educational impact of what we know we need to see for our students and their learning," Conley said.

The stress of the added enrollment from implementing all-day kindergarten was one of the main reasons the district wanted to move fifth graders out of the elementary schools, but Conley said the schools can manage for one year. McPolin Elementary and Jeremy Ranch Elementary would likely have capacity for all the students, while additional trailers would probably be necessary at Parley’s Park Elementary and Trailside Elementary.

Kaplan said the necessity of portables will be factored into the Board’s decision.

"It’s definitely a concern," he said. "Parents don’t like it. Frankly, the Board and the administration doesn’t like having to do it. But it’s also the reality. We’ve been saying that we want to build new schools because of capacity constraints. Well, that’ll become very visible."

The district has considered other options, as well, including putting 16 portable classrooms at the high school for ninth graders, moving the fifth and sixth grades to Treasure Mountain and having seventh and eighth grades at Ecker Hill Middle School. Conley said postponing realignment for one year made the most sense.

"We have put prices to the different realignment possibilities, and this does make it fiscally efficient," she said. "That was another reason behind this recommendation."