Park City School District learned its lesson
The Park Record editorial, Jan. 11-13, 2017
In the fall of 2015, voters were emphatic in their rejection of the Park City School District’s $56 million bond proposal that would have funded major changes to school facilities.
But like any good student who occasionally slips up and earns a failing grade, the district appears to have learned its lesson.
After the defeat of the measure, which the district said was crucial to keep up with the pressures of rising enrollment, school leaders pledged to take some of the primary criticisms levied against them during the bond campaign to heart. So far, they’re making good on that promise during their push to select a new design for an expansion of Park City High School.
On Election Night in 2015, it was clear that many residents didn’t feel engaged in the process that led to the bond, or informed enough to give their OK to such an ambitious project. Many felt, instead, that the district hurried it through, sacrificing a careful exploration of all available options in order to get the measure on the ballot.
Whether those criticisms are entirely fair or not is up for debate, but it’s clear school leaders are being careful this time around not to fall victim to them. To begin with, they’re taking on the district’s facility needs one piece at a time, rather than in one sweeping project, starting with the high school expansion. That will allow residents to consider the proposals in bite-size chunks, making it easier to evaluate their merits.
The district is also wise to cast a wide net in gathering input before the Board of Education is scheduled to select a final plan for the high school this spring. Three community meetings about the project allow residents to voice their opinions in person, while a website featuring the proposed designs means everyone with an internet connection can become involved and make their views known.
For all the condemnations of the bond process in 2015, the district made similar outreach efforts then. But now, with the lessons learned from that campaign in tow and the help of a full-time community relations specialist, the initiatives are more focused — and they seem more likely to result in the community coalescing behind whatever plan is ultimately chosen.
The Park City community has always been willing to open pocketbooks and purses in pursuit of a better education for children. But that benevolence does not come unfettered — residents want to know that school leaders will be prudent and judicious with their money.
The bond campaign proved that. School leaders, after that defeat, are showing now that they got the message.
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