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Mile Post 2020: Making the grade

Jeff Dempsey
The Park Record
A Park City High School student heads in to his first day of classes.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

The Park City area has long been an attractive destination for visitors, but for many years now it has also drawn those who want to call it home permanently. That growth has led to overcrowding in the Park City School District and the South Summit School District, both of which are looking to build new facilities to accommodate their new students.

For the Park City School District, the need for expansion has been clear since 2014, when efforts began to craft a $56 million bond that would have expanded Park City High School, created a new fifth- and sixth-grade school and paid for improvements at McPolin Elementary School. That bond went before voters in 2015 and failed, and the years since then have only seen the overcrowding issues continue.

Business Administrator Todd Hauber said the district is currently working on a master education and facilities plan that includes four priorities:

• Design for a four-year comprehensive high school with additional space for ninth-graders

• Expansion of middle grades to a sixth- through-eighth-grade format

• Ensuring early-learning opportunities for preschool at the elementary sites

• Enhancing or expanding career and technical education opportunities for students in grades six through 12

There is a need for additional learning space at every school, Hauber said.

“The district has had modular or ‘extra’ classroom spaces for many years,” he said. “The district’s early learning program gains more interest each year, and there is always a waiting list.”

The Park City Board of Education has said it hopes to have architectural work finished by the end of this year so the community can evaluate different options in the spring and summer.

In South Summit, the story is similar. Bond measures were put before voters in 2017 and 2019 and each time failed to garner enough support to pass. The $87 million bond in 2019 would have paid for a new 215,000-square-foot high school in Kamas.

Like the Park City School District, the South Summit School District has now had to turn to increased use of temporary, modular classrooms to accommodate its student body.

“Overcrowding will continue to be an is- sue,” Superintendent Shad Sorenson said last fall. “But we’ll do all we can to support, empower, and inspire individuals to promote and achieve academic and character excellence.”

The district was considering bringing another bond to the voters this year but decided against it after the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Looking ahead, earlier this year the district gathered 50 volunteers serving on five different committees to help craft a roadmap for future growth in the district.

As it stands, every South Summit campus is at or near capacity, with one high school teacher describing the high school as “bulging at the seams.”

With growth in Park City and Summit County likely to continue, the issue of overcrowding in schools seems unlikely to disappear.


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