Mile Post: ‘Future of Learning’ at a crossroads
When checking in on the state of Park City School District, it’s not quite right to say it is at a milepost on the journey. Rather, the district is at a crossroads. And the path it takes is not entirely up to school officials.
The district has proposed $129 million in capital improvement projects across its campuses as part of its yearslong master planning process, and the majority of the funding, $79.2 million, will need to be approved by voters this November in a bond measure.
The projects will include new construction and renovation at Park City High School, Ecker Hill Middle School and Parley’s Park, McPolin, Jeremy Ranch and Trailside elementary schools. The projects would expand PCHS to accommodate the ninth grade, Ecker Hill Middle School to fit the eighth grade and build additions to all four elementary schools for pre-kindergarten programs and other services.
School officials have long seen moving ninth-graders into PCHS as a top priority, and moving the eighth grade into Ecker Hill would allow the district to retire the aging Treasure Mountain Junior High School.
District officials argue the proposed improvements and expansions are sorely needed to deliver the educational experience the community desires for students.
The current $129 million in capital improvements and $79 million bond is not the first time the district has gone before voters with a hefty bond proposal meant to revamp facilities. In 2015, a $56 million bond measure failed by a significant margin. That bond would have paid for several capital projects, including an expansion and gym remodel of Park City High School, a new fifth- and sixth-grade school at the Ecker Hill campus, improvements to McPolin Elementary School and athletic facilities.
The district began its current master planning process in 2018, dubbing it “The Future of Learning” and seeking community input on priorities. The strategic pillars, crafted by students, educators, parents, community members and city and county officials over a seven-month period, are:
• Creating the best learning environment for our students and staff
• Providing clear leadership
• Recruiting and retaining high-quality personnel
• Delivering effective communication
• Working with the community to create a better life for our students
The Board of Education also named carbon neutrality and green construction as one of its priorities, with the district’s intention to align with Park City’s 2030 carbon-neutral goal.
According to district estimates — and assuming the bond wins the support of voters this fall — the PCHS and Ecker Hill projects would be completed by spring of 2024. The elementary school projects could be completed as soon as summer of 2023.
At an August board meeting, board member Andrew Caplan said the district will seek to fund the remaining $50 million through other means such as grants, philanthropic efforts and lease revenue bonds, and he acknowledged the size of the $79 million request going before voters.
“We recognize that is quite a bit of money,” Caplan said, “but we are trying to keep it at that amount and again that is why we are pursuing alternate financing. We’re trying to be creative, using as many tools as possible given the project size.”
To learn more about the district’s master plan, visit pcfutureoflearning.pcschools.us.
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