Potential junior high rebuild sparks discussion | ParkRecord.com

Potential junior high rebuild sparks discussion

As Park City School District officials evaluate all options for a potential rebuild of Treasure Mountain Junior High, possibilities that include a realignment of the district’s grade structure have come to the forefront.

Realignment would mean kindergarten through fourth-grade students would attend the district’s elementary schools. Ecker Hill Middle School, which currently houses grades six and seven, would hold fifth- and sixth-grade students, while a rebuilt Treasure Mountain Junior High would include grades seven and eight. Park City High School would be expanded to house grades nine through 12.

Moe Hickey, who is on the Park City Board of Education and also serves on the district’s Master Planning Committee — which is spearheading the planning of the rebuild — said it’s important to remember, however, that the discussions are still in the preliminary stage.

"Right now, exploring is the key word," he said.

One of the biggest benefits of the grade realignment would be relieving some of the overcrowding at the elementary schools — a problem that may only get worse in coming years, Hickey said.

"We have a recommendation (to the board) for all-day kindergarten (beginning in 2016-2017), and I believe that with that will come increased enrollment in both kindergarten and preschool," Hickey said. "Because that’s something people have been waiting for."

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Another plus would be becoming more in line with the state curriculum, which categorizes first through sixth grades as elementary.

"Even our curriculum in sixth grade at Ecker Hill is considered an elementary curriculum," Hickey said. "You go into a middle-school curriculum in seventh grade."

According to the minutes of recent Master Planning meetings, the committee is considering the potential effects of realignment. Concerns members of the committee raised include whether ninth-grade students are mature enough to be in the same school as seniors.

Superintendent Ember Conley is quoted in the minutes as saying other superintendents around the state have told her there isn’t one grade alignment that’s better than the others — what’s important is what alignment best fits a community. And Hickey said the goal all along is to find out what’s best for Park City students.

"I think it’s been a great discussion," Hickey said. "I don’t see (realignment) being a major disruption regardless of what the decision is."

Possible locations for the new Treasure Mountain High School include near its current location on Kearns Boulevard or a possible site near Ecker Hill Middle School. One large factor the district will consider in deciding where the school would be built — and whether to realign grades — is traffic, Hickey said.

If the grades are realigned and the school is built on Kearns Boulevard, that would mean an additional grade’s worth of traffic would be clogging the roads each morning and afternoon. If it is built near Ecker Hill Middle School, that would add two grades of students to the nearby roads.

"We’re going to have traffic issues at both locations that we’re going to have to look at," Hickey said. "Either way, we’re going to add (students) to an existing campus."

The district is also still considering rebuilding Treasure Mountain Junior High and leaving the grades as they are, Hickey said. That scenario could also include additions to the elementary schools to accommodate enrollment growth. The board could also elect not to rebuild the school.

The district would like to hire an outside planner in February to advise it on what options may be most feasible, Hickey said. The district is trying to get a recommendation to the school board by the summer, so members can decide whether to issue a bond to fund the new junior high, which the public would vote on this November.

Hickey said the district is seeking feedback on the options from teachers, district employees and members of the public. The Master Planning Committee’s minutes can be found at pcschools.us, and residents can send feedback to masterplanning@pcschools.us .