PCSD bond debated once more as Election Day closes in
With disagreements swirling about the Park City School District’s $56 million bond as Election Day nears, voters got to see supporters and detractors face off in a public setting Tuesday one last time before heading to the polls.
Residents packed the school district office Tuesday for the second of two public hearings about the bond, many directing their opinions to the Board of Education and some perhaps hoping to sway any undecided voters in attendance.
Many of the arguments residents offered, both in favor of the bond and against it, were the same ones that have been thrown around in recent months as the controversy over the measure has intensified. But some of the fireworks were new.
In a particularly tense moment, Ali Ziesler, a leader of the anti-bond group Citizens for Better Education, questioned the school district’s claim that a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders built at the site of Ecker Hill Middle School would function as a separate entity from the middle school, despite a plan that calls for the buildings to share certain facilities such as a kitchen and an auditorium.
"I’m impressed that you can keep saying that with a straight face," said Ziesler, who has claimed the fifth- through eighth-grade arrangement at Ecker Hill would essentially create one of the largest middle schools in the state.
Superintendent Ember Conley refuted Ziesler’s concerns later in the meeting and clarified her claim in an email to The Park Record. Conley said fifth- and sixth-graders will not "mingle" with seventh- and eighth-graders and that the two schools will be on different schedules and have separate front offices, principals, lunch periods and counselors.
Another much-disputed topic has been whether the Board of Education has been open enough with residents and willing to adequately answer tough questions about the bond. Some have said the Board rushed the measure onto the ballot to keep residents from taking a close look at the projects it will pay for. The opposition reiterated many of those concerns Tuesday, but one woman strongly defended the Board.
The woman admitted that she has been skeptical of the district’s plans but that the Board’s willingness to address her worries convinced her to support the bond.
"The Board has really taken the time," she said. "They’ve done their homework. They’ve been able to answer every one of my questions."
The district also defended itself against a claim that the Board disregarded the recommendations of its master planning committee and of superintendent Ember Conley by deciding to expand Park City High School to the west, move Dozier Field, and consider building an athletic field house.
Critics of the bond have said that is proof the process has been flawed and did not involve enough collaboration from the community. Some are in favor of scrapping the bond and giving the community another year to find different solutions.
But Conley said Tuesday that the Board did adopt the majority of her and the master planning committee’s recommendations and noted that there was not even a consensus among members of the committee. Nancy Garrison, a member of the Board, reiterated Conley’s point and said that just because the Board didn’t agree with certain elements of the recommendations doesn’t mean it didn’t carefully examine them.
Early voting on the bond is underway and runs through Oct. 30, with Election Day set for Nov. 3. To vote early, a resident had to be registered by Oct. 19. Early voting will take place at the Marsac building and the Sheldon Richins Building, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. each week day. All precincts within the school district are eligible to cast ballots at either location. To vote on Election Day, residents must register in-person by Oct. 26 or online by Oct. 27.
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