Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Park City School District Board members: Tania Knauer, JJ Ehlers, Julie Eihausen, Nancy Garrison, Philip N. Kaplan,

We, the Park City School Board, appreciate the public input we have received in response to the current and future growth of our school district. Our Master Planning Advisory Committee has been meeting for nearly a year to determine a road map for district facilities. Our goal is to build facilities that help realize our vision of innovation and excellence in education. Done properly, and with the community’s support, we believe that Park City can become a top public school district on a national basis.

Our process is open and transparent. We have held more than 30 public meetings with more than 500 participants from all over the district, while having weekly media coverage on the process. The final master plan will reflect our students’ needs only, with the price tag largely driven by the growth of the district-resident student population. The final recommendation and plan will consider community ideas as well as input from City, County and UDOT experts on traffic impacts. It will consider carefully future growth scenarios. Ultimately, we believe the community will support a direction that puts the educational and safety needs of our children first.

As the final plan impacts all PCSD residents, we would like to set straight a few facts about the plan and the planning process:

1. Capacity – As capacity is the biggest driver for building new schools, the public should know that PCSD follows the same state capacity formulas that Utah’s other districts follow. According to state public policy, our schools are full or almost full. Trailside will have trailers to accommodate students in the 2015-16 school year and Parleys Park may have trailers, depending on final enrollment. Our high school is also full. It is our responsibility to provide suitable space for our students.

2. Opportunity for All Students – There is strong evidence that early education provides an opportunity to assist our most at-risk students to become proficient by grade 3, if it is provided. PCSD has stated that closing the achievement gap is a priority and; therefore, we need to provide room for expanded Pre-K and all day Kindergarten.

3. Building Locations – Scheme 3 was the overwhelmingly preferred option at our community open planning workshops. There were many notations on the plan, which we’ve incorporated into the final draft.

4. Bussing – All PCSD students currently attend school at the Ecker campus for 6/7th grades. Bussing reflects the geographic reality of our district; and students have been bussed for years. With a new 5/6 located at Ecker, students in town will ride the bus to Ecker for four years and students out of town will ride the bus to Park City High School for four years.

5. High School Expansion and Dozier Field Possible Move The Master Planning committee is considering several final alternatives for this necessary construction, including a western expansion that necessitates moving the current Dozier Field and a southward expansion that may cost more. Any expansion needs to make long-term educational and financial sense. We are also considering community and athletic preferences.

6.Property Values While our goal is innovation and excellence in education and private property values are out of our jurisdiction, we believe it would be difficult or impossible to find an example of a top school district anywhere in the country where property values have not gone up as schools continued to improve.

Growth and change in our district creates concern and angst for some, but long-term population growth is our reality. There are many considerations for our district and we invite the public to continue to provide input and ask questions as our community moves forward to meet all of our student needs.

We understand that planning for the future requires a significant monetary investment, but also know that ignoring or not planning for growth will end up costing our community much more financially, and will result in a lack of quality learning environments for our students.