Residents speak up again on Park City School District plans
A community meeting Monday revealed support for the Park City School District’s master planning process that could result in a bond in November, but also saw the emergence of a new set of concerns about the project.
It was the first public meeting about the district’s proposals to be held at Ecker Hill Middle School, and much of the discussion in the two-hour meeting centered on how the changes would affect students at that campus. Among the district’s proposals is building a new school for fifth and sixth graders adjacent to the middle school, which would hold seventh and eighth grades.
One resident was worried about the time students from the farthest areas of Park City proper would have to spend on busses, since under the district’s proposal, four grades of students would attend school at the Ecker Hill campus rather than the two grades currently housed there. Todd Hauber, the district’s business administrator, said those students would spend 25-40 minutes on the bus.
The commenter said that would be wasted time for the students and instead proposed splitting fifth-through-eighth graders into two schools. Ecker Hill Middle School could be one and serve students in the Snyderville Basin, while the district could build another one for students in Park City proper on land the district owns on Kearns Boulevard.
"I really feel strongly about that, and all the parents I’ve talked to in Park Meadows and a couple of other areas feel the same way," the resident said.
Rory Murphy, a co-chair of the district’s master planning committee, responded that the Ecker Hill campus is actually near the geographic center of the district, meaning it makes sense as a location for four grades of students.
Another resident said she supported the district’s overall plan, but was concerned about what would happen to fifth graders if a bond campaign to fund the project were to fail in November. Under the district’s approved grade realignment, fifth graders are scheduled to move out of the four elementary schools and join sixth graders in a new school starting in the 2016-2017 school year.
Ember Conley, the district’s superintendent, said the district is working on that contingency plan, though it would move forward with grade realignment regardless of whether the bond passes because the new grade structure is better for students’ learning needs. Options being discussed include housing the fifth graders in portables at their current elementary schools as a stop-gap measure.
"We definitely don’t have it figured out yet," she said.
Murphy added that the district has $19 million in capital reserves to potentially move forward with the fifth- and sixth-grade school, then it could attempt to get another bond passed in 2016.
Some residents also reiterated concerns that had been discussed at the first community meeting, held last week at the district office. Those worries centered on the district’s proposals for the Kearns Boulevard campus.
Steve Swanson, a Park City architect, said he came to the meeting to represent the Holiday Ranch homeowners association, which is near where the district has proposed moving Dozier Field. The district is considering tearing down Treasure Mountain Junior High and putting the field — as well as a large athletic fieldhouse that would house the basketball gym, among other amenities — there so it can build a new wing on the high school where the field currently sits.
But, as several others had expressed in last week’s community meeting, Swanson worried that property values of homes in the area would drop due to the lights, noise and traffic of the athletic facilities. He worried moving the field hasn’t been adequately studied and said the district should consider moving the athletic facilities to Ecker Hill and put the fifth- and sixth-grade school on Kearns Boulevard.
Apart from the tax burden the project could pin on residents, moving the athletic facilities has emerged as the primary sticking point of the district’s proposal. After the meeting, Conley said the district is studying those concerns and she is hopeful they can be overcome.
"I’m actually encouraged," she said. "I mean, out of all the changes that we’re proposing, for the main issue to be an athletic fieldhouse, that’s great."
She added that she has been pleased with the turnout of the community meetings. One more is scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 21 at Park City High School before the master planning committee makes a recommendation regarding the proposal to the Board of Education in a public meeting August 11.
The Board of Education will then vote on the proposal and whether to put a bond on the ballot in a meeting the following week.
"The continual information that we’re getting just helps us with the process," Conley said. "We have growth in our district we have to address. We have needs of students we have to address. I have to educate my kids, and we’re at a critical, critical point."
Park City School District’s Master Plan proposal
Phase one, to be completed by the fall of 2017, includes (preliminary cost estimates total $46 million to $56 million):
- 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):
- 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)
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A district spokesperson said six students were removed from an area in the school as police conducted a search.