Guest editorial: PCSD masterplan reflects careful study
October 31, 2015
As a parent and a Director or Planning for a private development company, I was honored to co-chair of the Park City School District’s Master Planning Steering Committee which was tasked with developing a Master Planning process and ultimately provide recommendations to the Board of Education for consideration. Our weekly two-hour meetings lasted for almost a year to evaluate the many factors that affect the master plan including; estimated population growth, district boundaries, grade alignment, physical condition and capacity of existing facilities, as well as identifying curriculum and facilities needs for PCSD students. This was a very thorough process and a lot was studied in a short amount of time.
It is shocking to hear accusations of a rushed process given the diligence and thoroughness of our efforts. Over the course of just under a year we also conducted three workshops (each over three-hour sessions with approximately 60 citizens), 5 community forums/Town Hall meetings (two-hour meetings with dozens of attendees), several neighborhood meetings and commissioned a community survey with over 500 respondents — all geared to provide information about the process and solicit valued feedback from the Community. Clearly this illustrates a commitment of prolonged study and engagement with our community. Further, we received ongoing input from stakeholders (PCMC Planning & Transportation, Summit County planning and transportation, UDOT, PCEF, and Basin Recreation) on matters of traffic and shared use of sports facilities. We vetted many options including a number of improvements that the Board of Education has selected to pursue. Claiming that this was a rushed process could not be further from the truth.
Concerns about the budget and feedback from a small group of vocal community members generated a fear that the bond may not pass. The Master Planning Committee reacted to this perceived risk by ultimately recommended keeping Dozier field in place by expanding the HS to the south, as well as provides a future location for a potential future field house- but not build one at this time. This was a departure from the preferred plan (Scheme 3) which was the result of a year’s worth of work and thorough community input addressing all of the needs (including athletic needs) of the students. In hindsight, I believe this decision was short sighted and the Committee should have stuck with the preferred plan (Scheme 3) and simply identify ways to bring down the costs — just as the Board ultimately did. I am pleased however that the Board decided to pursue the majority of the projects in the preferred plan (Scheme 3) and identified ways to implement them within a budget that the community has an appetite for.
The notion that the Board has written a bond with little accountability of how the money is to be spent is a misconception and requires clarification. Most school districts go through a similar master planning and bonding process of identifying the needed facilities and improvement projects to determine overall budgets (i.e. bond amounts) based on rough-order-magnitude cost estimates of those projects. School districts are unable to invest a lot of time and money on detailed programming and design drawings to get accurate pricing- without knowing if the money will be available for these projects. This is standard practice. The decision to move forward with a bond this year, while interest rates are still low, shows that the Board is being fiscally responsible with tax payer’s money.
I think I can speak for many in the community that simply want to provide our children with the necessary tools and educational facilities to achieve the best education possible. This plan does just that and I encourage the community to support the school bond.