Park City School District receives pushback on master plan during community meeting
June 30, 2015
The Park City School District in recent months has said it welcomed public input on its master planning project that could require a substantial bond on the ballot in November.
On Monday, that is exactly what the district received, as it held the first of three scheduled community meetings regarding the project. Several residents used the forum to express deep concerns about several aspects of the proposal, including its overall cost, the planning process and even the necessity of its most basic components.
More than 50 residents attended the two-hour meeting. District representatives — including Rory Murphy, co-chair of the master planning committee; superintendent Ember Conley; and business administrator Todd Hauber — spoke to the crowd about how and why the district had arrived at its current master plan outline, then a question-and-answer session followed.
The proposal, propelled largely by expected enrollment growth and seen by the district as necessary to implement its approved realigned grade structure, includes two phases (though nothing in the plan has been finalized).
Phase one, to be completed by the fall of 2017, includes (preliminary cost estimates from four construction firms total $46 million to $56 million, requiring a bond in the $25 million to $30 million range, according to Murphy):
- Demolish Treasure Mountain Junior High
- Relocate Dozier Field to junior high site
- Expand Park City High School
- Build upper elementary school on Ecker Hill campus
Phase two, whose completion is yet to be determined (no preliminary costs available):
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- Expand McPolin Elementary School to accommodate enrollment growth
- Potentially build athletic fieldhouse near new football field
- Potentially build new district office and repurpose existing building
- Potentially repurpose Park City Learning Center
- Potentially expand Ecker Hill community pool
- Potentially build district storage warehouse)
The district’s master planning committee is scheduled to make a recommendation about the project to the Board of Education at a public meeting August 11, with the Board voting whether to approve the plan the following week. The deadline for the district to issue a resolution to bond is August 20.
Some of the most vocal residents were concerned about the effect moving Dozier Field to where Treasure Mountain Junior High currently sits — necessary if the high school expands to the west — would have on the property values of homes in the area. One woman said the noise and lights from the stadium would be a nuisance to residents, and she also worried about the effect the stadium would have on the wetlands directly to the north.
Vern Latham, a partner at VCBO Architecture, which is the district’s master plan consulting firm, said they are already conducting a study to determine the effects moving the field would cause. Murphy said moving Dozier Field would not be necessary if the high school expands to the north or to the east, but there are downsides to those locations. They include having to moving dirt left over from previous construction at the high school — which Murphy said would be expensive if moved off-site — and concerns about students’ ability to get to and from the new expansion in a timely manner without interrupting classes.
Resident Ali Ziesler expressed skepticism that Treasure Mountain needs to be torn down. She said the district should use its capital reserves to expand the high school and seek a smaller bond to update the junior high.
However, district officials said Treasure Mountain suffers from a number of costly issues, including bad plumbing and unreinforced masonry. One resident said he supported tearing down the school and worried it would be a "pile of bricks" if an earthquake struck. A teacher at the school, Mark Parker, said it’s clear the building is unsafe for a variety of reasons.
Resident Sheila Kirst worried a bond — and the resulting increase in property taxes — could price her out of her home, saying a neighbor had already been forced to move due to rising taxes. She said she supports the district, but wanted to ensure there was a plan to limit the number of out-of-district students, whose families don’t pay taxes in the district.
Hauber responded that only about 140 out-of-district students currently attend Park City schools. But he said the district’s plan, while designed to increase capacity at some schools to keep up with rising enrollment, ensures out-of-district students still won’t be able to flood the schools.
Another woman questioned the need for an athletic facility that would house a new basketball gym, among other amenities, saying, "That’s a disaster all by itself. It’s just ludicrous to me. Why do you need this building?"
Other residents said the district hasn’t done enough research. One man added that there isn’t enough time to incorporate public feedback, change the plans and ensure the public supports the changes if the district wants to meet the August 20 deadline to get a bond on the ballot.
Said another resident, Chuck Klingenstein: "I quite frankly think this is overkill, and I don’t have all the information at this point. I think you’ve got a long way to go to get there."
Murphy told The Park Record after the meeting that he was pleased with the feedback, because the goal is to come up with a plan residents support.
"I think what was brought up were some excellent points," he said. "There were some points we haven’t considered and need to consider before we’re prepared to make a recommendation to the school board.
"It’s important to note that the plan, as it stands right now, is very fluid. To have these comments and the pushback and the emotion that goes along with them is very helpful for everyone to see, particularly when you have a lot of the decision-makers in the room."
The district’s next community meeting is scheduled July 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Ecker Hill Middle School. The final scheduled meeting is set for July 21 at 6 p.m. at the high school.