School districts need to get out in front of new development
April 11, 2014
Kids in grades K through 12 are, no doubt, counting the days until summer vacation. No such luck for school administrators and district board members across Summit County. They will have plenty of homework assignments to study over the coming months.
In addition to all of the longstanding issues surrounding budgeting, curriculum and adjusting to new state and federal mandates, another challenge has cropped up. The North Summit, South Summit and Park City School District boundaries, set in stone over the last half century at least, may no longer be serving the best interests of their constituents.
Summit County used to be divided into three distinct regions North Summit, South Summit and Park City — with a population center at the heart of each. Those demographics made it easy to locate each area’s school campus. North Summit schools were clustered in Coalville and South Summit’s in Kamas. Park City’s schools were originally clustered in Old Town but as the city began to sprawl, a new high school was built along Kearns Boulevard in what was considered at the time to be the outskirts of town. New middle and elementary schools were quickly added as Prospector and Park Meadows filled in.
The Park City School District took on a whole new look as suburbs sprouted up in the Snyderville Basin an elementary school was built in Silver Springs, then another in Jeremy and another in Trailside. Pretty soon it was time to add a junior high and a second high school, perhaps in the Basin, is all but inevitable.
North and South Summit’s population hubs have remained static, however, that may soon change. Their actual boundaries are vast. North Summit encompasses a swath from Wanship to the Rich County border.
South Summit extends from the east side of Quinn’s Junction across the Uinta Mountains to the county’s easternmost border with Daggett County. And that was fine as long those remote areas were producing oil royalties or PILT funds and not kids.
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But now, new subdivisions are in the works for outlying areas which could push school district resources to the max. Case in point: Summit County planners will soon be looking at an application for Silver Creek Village, a large subdivision to be located southeast of Silver Creek Junction where developers previously proposed building as many as 1,290 housing units and 50,000 feet of commercial space.
Geographically, the area is closer to schools already built in the Park City District, but according to county maps, it is under the jurisdiction of South Summit, whose closest schools are in Kamas. What’s more, when built-out the project could conceivably double the number of students in South Summit.
A few preliminary discussions have taken place, but we are hoping that over the summer all three districts will sit down with the county planning department and take a close look at future development plans. In so doing they can perhaps work out some sensible transfer arrangements, coordinate plans for new schools to serve those ‘in between’ areas and ensure that kids are spending their valuable waking hours in school and not getting to school.