Park City Board of Education votes to realign grades for next generation of facilities

The Park City Board of Education took a step forward in readying itself for the educational demands of the future on Tuesday, offering guidance about what it would like to see from the next generation of facilities and laying the groundwork for significantly restructuring how and where students are educated.

The board voted unanimously to support realigning which grades are at what schools and directed staff to enter into negotiations with a “bond architect” to take stock of the district’s facilities inventory and all the planning work done to date in order to put a price tag on the sorts of changes that the board sees as necessary moving forward.

It puts the district on a path to have the cost component of a facilities plan settled in May and to have language for a potential bond measure ready by next July, the district’s business administrator Todd Hauber said. That would enable the question to be put to voters in next year’s general election.

Superintendent Jill Gildea said this is one more step in the board’s methodical effort to make sure the path forward is the right one. Officials have been engaged in master planning discussions since the fall of 2018, the latest in a series of attempts to build community support for a district-wide facilities blueprint.

“When people start coalescing around a similar concept, that helps you understand you’re on the right track,” she said. “You’d hate to make a plan and find out you need to turn over the other stone.”

The grade realignment approved Tuesday would yield three school types rather than four: elementary schools with grades pre-K through five, one or two middle schools for grades six through eight and a high school for grades nine through 12. To accommodate an additional grade in the high school, officials have discussed building an annex onto the current facility, adding more buildings to the Kearns campus or changing how existing facilities are used.

“We heard loud and clear from the community — (they) really like pre-K to (grade) five schools,” Gildea said. The board also contemplated creating two centralized early childhood centers with wraparound services like before- and after-school care.

The bonding architect will use the recommendations and those found in more than 1,100 pages of planning documents to provide a price tag for the sort of learning options the board wants to pursue.

“(The firm) will analyze the facilities assessment and the community’s aspirations for what the future will look like,” Gildea explained.

The recommendations are expected in March, and will include information like how much it would cost to expand Ecker Hill Middle School versus how much it would cost to add a new building elsewhere, Gildea explained.

From there, the board plans to select what options work best with its programming goals and then work to hone the cost in time for next fall’s election.

The district has already conducted interviews with five firms that responded to a request for proposals, and Gildea said their work reaches a level of granularity like the relative cost of using a certain type of flooring material, factoring in ongoing costs to wax and replace it.

The board would use those recommendations to decide what to do with its facilities, whether to expand or build new ones, what programming to put where and what elements of future learning environments would be feasible to implement.

Board members discussed schools as community learning centers that could possibly integrate cross-generational learning with senior citizens and career and technical education zones where students could pursue interests in things like engineering or culinary arts.

Gildea said the science about how students learn has grown exponentially in recent years, and she suggested that there might be some “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to implementing a facilities plan, even down to changing the kind of furniture students use.

She said student population growth is only one component of redesigning school buildings, that the traditional model of a corridor leading past equally sized classrooms toward a bank of bathrooms has been shown to be suboptimal.

“We need large group areas, small group areas; need a way to provide the best academic model so that each student can reach their educational potential, rather than (just the) 25:1 (model),” she said.

Board members also asked for the bonding architect to look at one versus two middle schools; expanding the high school or adding more buildings; a more generalized Kearns campus plan; where to put the wraparound services like after-school care and the associated transportation costs; and keeping adaptability and flexibility in mind while designing new buildings.


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