Park City Day School starts inaugural year |

Park City Day School starts inaugural year

Douglas Greenwood, The Park Record Staff

Excited chatter filled the hallway as staff members from Park City Academy and The Colby School shared lunch after their first joint faculty meeting. The two schools have merged to become Park City Day School. Classes begin Monday Aug. 23.

In 1989, Park City Academy started as an independent school. The Colby School began offering classes in 1998. From that time, the two schools have competed with each other for enrollment and financial self-sufficiency. Until last school year, both schools were seeking full accreditation with the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools in the spring of 2009.

Through the accreditation process, similar goals and a united purpose came to the attention of school administrators. "Both schools were swimming along just fine before the economic downturn," Head of School Charles Sachs said. "It became clear that we would thrive as one entity and we would continue to sort of bash heads independently." The merge came largely due to the desire of both schools to be financially self-supporting. Administrators announced the decision combine forces at the end of last school year.

When administrators announced the merger, some parents and faculty members responded with skepticism. "I was really upset," said Diana Scardilli, whose daughter will be in fourth grade this year. "I love Colby School." Parents came together to ensure the union of the two schools went smoothly. With a focus on communication, parents and teachers addressed the issues surrounding the merger.

"When we stripped away the veneer and the rhetoric that the two schools had been promoting over the years in their competition," Sachs said, "We found a core of values and virtues that everybody could buy into." The combined faculties had their first meeting Monday, and Sachs felt that Park City Day School is ready to start a strong year. "Colby parents looked to the teachers," Scardilli said. "We wanted reassurance from them that everything would be OK."

With a common purpose that would help to unite the two schools, the union of faculty members also came without much difficulty Sachs said. The new school will incorporate teachers from both previous campuses.

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Teaching contracts must be renewed each year and are based on the teachers’ performance during the previous year. Each teacher who would have been offered a renewed contract at either school was offered a position at the Park City Day School. Eleven teachers from The Colby School and 15 from Park City Academy have transferred to the new school. "I’m optimistic," Scardilli said. "Many of our Colby teachers will be at Park City Day School. I’m happy we will have the teachers we know."

Only one teacher was hired from outside the two schools.

The merging of the student body was also relatively effortless, administrators said. Park City Academy had 130 enrolled students last school year, while The Colby School had 108. Park City Day School has about 175 students currently enrolled. Sachs expects to have more than 180 students enrolled by September. Park City Day School offers classes from preschool through ninth grade.

"The student-teacher ratio is fundamentally important," Sachs said. With 25 teachers and three aides, class sizes will remain small, administrators say. Average class size will be about 14 students and each class will have no more than 20 students. Team-teachers and teacher aides help keep student-to-teacher ratio low. Teachers are able to give close attention to each child, according to Tess Miner-Farra, the assistant to the head of school. Merging the two schools also offers more to students by way of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. "You need a critical mass of kids to be able to offer an athletics program," Sachs said.

For financial and logistical reasons, administrators decided not to use both campuses for the new school. Physically consolidating two campuses into one was among the most difficult aspects of the merge, Farra said. Administrators worked hard to ensure each teacher had enough space for his or her students’ needs. Park City Day School will use the Park City Academy campus in Pinebrook. The Colby School campus has been vacated and is now for sale. Sachs hopes to be able to continue to expand the campus over the course of the next few years.

The next steps for Park City Day School include strengthening the school’s reputation in the community. Both The Colby School and Park City Academy had been evaluated for full accreditation from PNAIS. "When the two schools independently went through that process, it was clear that both wanted to be same sort of school when it grew up," Sachs said. Park City Day School is also accredited through Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, which accredits both independent and public schools that offer grades that are included on high school transcripts. Accreditation through NAAS allows Park City Day School transcripts to be acknowledged by high schools throughout Utah.

With the inaugural year of Park City Day School less than a week away, the faculty looks forward to the beginning of a new independent school that, according to Sachs, could be better than either was before it. "I’m happy to start school and find some predictable pattern, which we have not had for the last four months," he said.