Guest editorial: Constituent still skeptical about school bond
My young family has a stake in Proposition I, which supposedly addresses school programming needs. However, Utah students perform below the national average in college readiness; Park City School District, around the same.
We are currently in an enviable position. Voters have paid off the bond debt owed for the Ecker Hill Middle and Jeremy Ranch Elementary schools. Prop. I, however, is not the answer to our educational needs. It is wanting in planning, expertise, community and teacher input, traffic evaluation, and physical and financial detail.
The St. Luke’s panel discussion was the clincher. I learned that our board had not taken advice from the Master Planning Committee; had not vetted experts during the planning phase (still the current project phase in my estimation); had not fully engaged teachers or our community for input; had not fully explored less expensive, more effective ideas; had decided to add a new athletic facility only because someone suggested that ‘the way to get a bond passed’ was to add one; had not received UDOT input; etc.
The time and effort on the plan needs to be expanded before our schools are expanded.
Each of the last three years has shown 4 percent population growth in our schools, yet the Board is forecasting 2.5 percent growth over each of the next five years. The last time we addressed population growth, the plans were flawed, we spent millions, and hobbled our facilities. Park City High School was renovated only nine years ago, and Dozier Field was upgraded nine years ago to provide for a greater variety of activities.
Prop I comprises a massive set of building projects (in Capital only, not educational learning). In a project this large with a public ask (well over $125/family/yr, with interest), options should be carefully evaluated and the long-term functions and lives of buildings, key.
It was only late May 2015 when a few scenarios for the Kearns campus to address population growth were released. On July 21st a Draft Master Plan community presentation happened at Park City High School while many were on vacation. As of Aug. 5, Dozier Field was to remain intact to be improved. The new indoor athletic complex is a recent direction change. Aug. 11 a Final Master Plan and cost estimate came to the School Board with a vote to go to bond Aug. 18, just shy of the deadline to get it on the ballot. As of Sept. 1, details about the new athletic complex were yet to be determined. Has anyone in their corporate experience heard of a project of this magnitude moving through Initiation and Planning phases to Execution so quickly, with directional change so close to Execution?
A request for $12M for a new complex that has no details and high potential for ‘scope creep,’ which is when a project grows and changes over time due to poor definition in the Planning Phase, is a tall order and, likely, an inaccurate one. And don’t forget that tennis courts are included, yet PC MARC is one mile from PC High with seven year-round courts.
According to PCSD Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley, "The board’s vote tonight [Aug. 18 Board vote to take proposal to bond] is a groundbreaking step in meeting the demands for our student learning needs and accommodating our growing school district," adding, "This action is further proof that the board is committed to doing what is best for our students, and to providing excellent and innovative education to all grades." To which I respond, ‘How? PCSD is cutting the Reading and ESL programs next year. How does Prop I work for kids in need, who will be placed back into classrooms? Our PCSD programs are fractured; our students, divided; high achievers, unchallenged in the system; underachievers, left behind; teachers, unheard.
I will vote NO.