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Random thoughts from Yesterday’s Park City School Board Meeting

Yesterday, the Park City Schol Board met in regular session. As usual, there was a period of open comment. Yesterday’s open comment was centered on concerned parents about the handling of the PPES mask mandate and people in support of the school board. It was an interesting exchange between the School Board, parents, and board supporters.

I won’t rehash the arguments, as most of those, in both directions, were covered in the Park Rag Comments section on our previous story. I’ll also post a link to the meeting below, in case you want to “watch” for yourself.

However, here are some random observations from the meeting:

  • There was an opening statement on the topic from the school board. It was, “We think it is important to acknowledge that there have been some questions related to the public health order at Parley’s Park and the school’s initial response. While we acknowledge this and we are conducting a review of the process, we have been advised that we not make further public comment on the matter. Please rest assured that we will continue to work closely with the state, county, and health department as we continue to prioritize the health and safety in open schools.”
  • Brad Asay, President of the Utah American Federation of Teachers Utah, brought up the teachers’ angle on this. He spoke about the transparency and processes of the district during Covid and how that has impacted teacher safety. I had been thinking about the kids but teacher impact is a good point.
  • School Board member Andrew Caplan responded to Mr. Asay, “The notion that is been in the public and reported on that we are not in compliance with the state, county health codes is incorrect and that is a fact and that fact is backed up by the four inspections done by the county health department. So, anyone who believes that we were in violation of the county mask mandate or there was anything around that, that is simply not factually correct. I just want to clarify that. The popular narrative right now… we have received a number of emails upset with that notion, and rightfully so, had we been in violation, had we not been following the county rules, people have the right to be upset. But to imply that it is an unsafe work environment or to imply that we were not following county/state codes is simply not correct. I’m sorry you had incorrect information.”
  • The problem with Mr Caplan’s statement is the timeline and perhaps the parsing of words. Is the school district in compliance with the health order today? I would sure hope so. Were they on November 5th when the health department arrived on the scene, after KPCW called them out? I would sure hope so. The real question is whether they were in compliance during the first week of the mask mandate and whether the school district’s actions contributed to lack of safety. If measures weren’t in place day one, it would be like a restaurant that kept chicken at 50 degrees, food-poisoned some customers, heard the health department was coming, and made sure the chicken was then cold enough. Then when the restaurant manager was questioned they used the excuse that they meant to tell the kitchen staff that chicken should be at 36 degrees but it may have been misinterpreted. In the real world, regardless of that excuse, the restaurant is still getting shut down. Maybe PPES was in compliance on day one, but from everything I have read it wasn’t. Until this KPCW article is refuted in detail, the school district has a problem.
  • There seems to be some discussion over the communication of what a mask mandate is. I know when you are running an organization like the school district, things get complicated. However, to an average person like me, if someone asked me what a mask mandate in a school was, I would know. “Everyone wears a mask over their nose and mouth.” That’s not hard from a layperson’s perspective. The school board would likely ask, “what are you going to do about the exceptions?” I would then turn to the actual law. I’m not a lawyer but I can read. It took me almost 3 minutes to Google and find section 4 of the Health Order where the lawyers have specifically stated the exceptions. Strangely enough I don’t find any references to parent-related exceptions.
  • School Board President Erin Grady said that she has been to all schools in the last few days to make sure they are ready for a mask mandate. I appreciate that, I really do given the circumstances. However, it’s almost Thanksgiving. The time to do that was before Labor Day and it probably really isn’t her job.
  • I really appreciated that the school board would allow people to speak a little bit over their 3 minutes of allotted time. It allowed people to finish their thoughts.
  • I thought having two police officers there was a little over the top. I remember a sheriff deputy being at a County Council meeting once, but that was due to a specific threat. Maybe this is normal for schools, but it seemed a little weird. I do have to say the nice officer did help my 7-year old find the bathroom.
  • Here is the link to the meeting
  • So, if you’re like me, the craziest thing with the meeting link is that it is on Youtube. As you start to watch, you’ll see video. You’ll see school board members speaking amongst themselves. Then, as the official meeting starts, they cut off the video. We are left with audio only on Youtube. It’s not because they don’t have the equipment to do video. It seems it’s because they don’t want to be ON video. It makes it hard follow which board member is saying what. Stepping back to 30,000 feet, this is a metaphor for the transparency people are seeking from our school district.

Park City School Superintendent Dr. Gildea has lost our trust. Now what?

We at the Park Rag have been critical of the school district in the past. The 2015 bond was a disaster. The school district has hurt substitute teachers (and our kids) by hiring a temp agency to manage substitutes and caused a substitute teacher shortage at the worst possible time. They inexplicably tried to keep teachers’ kids out of schools and then apparently didn’t tell the truth when called out. And let’s not forget the magic rock.

That’s not to say that they haven’t had their successes. Teachers got a raise. We made it through the 2020/21 school year with in-person classes and minimal disruptions. The new bond proposal focused on facilities and passed overwhelmingly. We still have some great teachers (though some have left) and a cadre of wealthy above-average Lake Wobegone kids to keep our rankings relatively high.

But when Parley’s Park elementary came under the supervision of officials from the Health Department, after superintendent Gildea instructed teachers and staff not to enforce a legal mask mandate, our limited remaining trust in the school district administration was lost.

Regardless of your feelings about masks, the Republican-led Utah Legislature made a law allowing local health departments to determine school rules under certain circumstances. The Summit County Health Department used its authority, granted by the legislature, to make rules intended to protect students and staff. According to news reports, Dr. Gildea actively prevented those rules from being implemented.

As an aside, KPCW has done a fantastic job covering this story (Michelle Deininger at KPCW has been amazing on this coverage). We would also be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge Summit County attorney Margaret Olson for calling it as she sees it when she said “…it’s apparent that things went terribly wrong.”

The superintendent has floated various explanations. In our view, none of them can possibly excuse this behavior. If Dr. Gildea was unsure of the law, it would have been trivial to call Summit County and resolve any questions as soon as she became aware that the mandate might need to be implemented. The superintendent has wavered between claiming that the mandate is legally unenforceable to saying she was misunderstood and that the school needs a “reset.” At some points, she appears to have contradicted herself within the same day.

Dr. Gildea’s response might best be characterized as panicked, defiant, and incoherent. The school board, on the other hand, could best be characterized as absent. That’s right, not a word about the situation. Not an explanation, not an apology, not even some boilerplate that says “we look forward to clearing up this misunderstanding and want to make it clear that the health and safety of our school community is our top priority.” Maybe they’re tired of all the criticism, or exhausted from pushing the bond through, or just sick of doing a thankless and unpaid job. Unfortunately, however, it’s a job they signed up for, and they owe the community an explanation. If none is forthcoming, people will assume the worst.

While the past is concerning, the future is equally worrisome. Our community just handed an open check for $79 million to the Park City School District. The district believes they have a mandate for an additional $40 million more to add on to our schools. Do you want someone you don’t trust administering that? The district previously was cited for awarding inappropriate contracts that violated Utah state law. Are we OK if that happens again? Given recent events, would we expect anything different? What else could happen? These are the questions asked when you lose trust.

It hit home late last week. My wife and I were discussing the issue while our seven and nine-year-old ate breakfast. They are the consumers of school and they have a right to know what is going on. One of the kids looked up, his eyes in shock, “Mrs. [insert his teacher name here] didn’t do what’s right?” We were mortified and quickly explained that it wasn’t his teacher. Yet, should we be less mortified that we were discussing his teacher’s boss? Sometimes kids bring out the truth. We as humans all have flaws, but when you run schools, you can’t defy the Health Department. You can’t have the Summit County Attorney speaking about criminal liability in reference to your school superintendent’s actions.

As the old saying goes, “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”. Unfortunately neither malice nor stupidity, regardless of which was responsible here, is acceptable in a school superintendent (or board).

So, now what?

The question to ask is whether we need a different superintendent. The people responsible for that answer are our elected school board. If you asked them, they would tell you they can’t speak on the issue of personnel matters. However, if they aren’t actively discussing this question, we likely need a different school board, too.

We expect a lot out of our kids. We expect them to be honest. We expect them to tell the truth. We expect them to follow the rules. We expect them to stand up for what is right.

Don’t we expect the same things from those who are responsible for their education?

Opposed to Dakota Pacific? The deck is stacked against you.

What a surprise. Summit County moved the Dakota Pacific meeting from November 17th to December 1st.

Why would they ever do that?

It could be because there was a problem with the meeting space or because a County Councilor couldn’t make it.

However, my bet is it’s because Summit County wants to hamper the campaign against the development.

Let’s take a step back and talk about who is FOR and AGAINST this development.

In my opinion, on the FOR side, we have Dakota Pacific, Summit County Planning Department, and most of the Summit County Council.

On the AGAINST side, we have the people.

What the County seems to be doing is an age-old tactic. There is a petition against the effort with more than 3,000 signatures. Countless letters have been written against the development. Over 500 people were likely to show up and speak against Dakota Pacific on November 17th.

So, if you are a government organization that doesn’t like the way things are going, what do you do?

Postpone and delay. Change the playfield. I can imagine the County Council saying, “How can we vote for a proposal when 500 people, over 3 hours, speak against the development on November 17th? What can we do?” Then someone says, “delay it.”

What Dakota and Summit County are likely doing is fivefold.

  • First, they want distance between all the negative letters to the Park Record and the vote.
  • Second, they want to line up their own positive letters in the Park Record that can be run right before the vote.
  • Third, they are depending on Thanksgiving to remove the energy.
  • Fourth, they need to line up people to speak at the meeting in December 1st.
  • Fifth, Dakota is likely slightly altering their proposal with something that will “sound” better than the current proposal and will allow the County Council to say that they are voting for this proposal because Dakota is working with them and this new shining thing makes it worth it, even though the public is against it.

It’s all theater designed for them to find a way for the Summit County Council to vote for a bad development.

If you are against Dakota Pacific’s proposal, you have work to do.

  • If you have written a letter to the Park Record, you need to write another one. There are so many reasons to oppose this devleopment. There have to be other points that you didn’t bring up the first time. Letters matter.
  • If you haven’t written a letter, write one. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Three sentences that explains how you feel about this development is all you need. Here is how you do it.
  • Keep emailing the County Council. It probably won’t make a difference because, although they are supposed to represent their electorate, they don’t seem to be doing that here.
  • Watch for changes in the last minute and don’t let those change the debate.
  • Most importantrly… Show up on December 1st. Your voice matters.

It’s hard when the people are fighting against government interests. Government has all the power. We the people don’t have the power, but we do have the numbers.

Dakota Pacific’s development would negatively alter the corridor to Park City. It will negatively impact traffic. It will negatively impact water. It will negatively impact our schools. It won’t put a dent in affordable housing. The people have shown they are against this. We need to keep up the fight. We can stop Dakota Pacific. We can’t allow the powers that be to go against what people want and continue this horrible development.

They are trying, but we need to say no. Keep up the good fight.

Basin Rec is asking for up to a 10% increase in employee salary

I love Basin Rec. Their children’s sports programs are great. Their people are great. Their facilities are great, except for the cancerous indoor field. Today, however, let’s talk about their request for salary increases.

During today’s Summit County Council meeting, their proposed budget is requesting a 5% cost of living adjustment and up to a 5% merit increase. A potential 10% increase in salary. That’s Crazy.

I have checked with various people around the Snyderville Basin and few people are getting 5%. No one I spoke with has the potential for a 10% increase in salary unless they are self-employed.

Perhaps Basin Rec is asking for 10% in hopes they get 5%. The problem is that it makes the public begin wondering if Basin Rec is living too high on the hog.

In some ways, Basin Rec is a favored child of Summit County. Everyone wants trails. However, as I look across the Basin at fancy metal signs and piles of wood for construction, I wonder if our tax dollars are well spent. Many of us begin asking those questions when things go too far.

The potential for 10% raises is too high and it shapes my impression of the organization.

Why I voted for the Park City School Bond

There are no good or bad ideas. There is only execution.

So, I voted for the $79.2 million Park City School Bond. I wanted to give them the chance to execute.

I fought the 2015 school bond tooth and nail. The process they used was manipulative. After attending almost every meeting, I wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t corrupt. It was a total and unmitigated disaster.

I don’t get that feeling from this bond.

I do have the nagging feeling that this will be a little bit of the dog that chased the car and finally caught it. I explained the changes that will be coming to Jeremy Ranch Elementary to my oldest son and he asked how long until they are done. I said about two years. He said, “Good, I won’t go to school there anymore.”

No matter how you feel about it, the bond is going to pass. That has to feel good for the school district and school board.

However, the real challenges are ahead.

We have to expand the high school. We have to move 9th graders to the high school. We have to expand Ecker (not part of this bond but will be paid through taxes and bake sales). We have to expand Jeremy and McPolin elementary schools. We have to expand Trailside and Parley’s elementary schools (not part of this bond but will be paid through taxes and bake sales).

Can the school district execute that? Can they do it within budget? Can they do it on time?

Most importantly, can they increase the educational value to our students? They need to ensure that $129 million actually translates to helping our underserved and/or ELL students in getting a better education. Likewise, the rest of our students should have improved outcomes, as well.

$129 million+ is a lot of money on buildings if there isn’t an educational advantage. I look forward to understanding how the school district is planning on quantifying improvements in education.

I believe the Park City School Board and School District will look at tomorrow’s victory as a success. I look at it as a challenge.

I voted for this because I wanted to give our district a chance.

Now they need to return the faith.

Summit County, please use the $50 million in open space bonds to buy the Tech Park

Dear Summit County,

I hope you find yourself well. I have been doing well this past year. The harvest of Halloween candy seems plentiful, and I am hopeful that Thanksgiving will yield yams, potatoes, and other delights. If only Harmon’s could have taken over the Outlets at Park City sooner, we all may have all feasted on this coming holiday.

Abundance aside, I write to you with a simple request.

Although my property taxes have doubled over the past decade, and my sales taxes have increased too, I knowingly voted for your $50 million open space bond. I also realize that you didn’t want to hurt the current bond’s chances, so you have delayed additional tax increases until next year. I thank you for that consideration.

By paying increasing taxes every year, I believe I have shown sacrifice for you. I am hoping that you will return the favor.

Pray tell, will you please consider using every last dollar of the $50 million we have given you, to buy the Dakota Pacific Tech Park and make it into open space? I don’t care if it is only worth a fraction of this.

If you answer my prayers, I will no longer have to worry about basketball tickets and conflicts of interest. I won’t have to worry about whether this development will create more housing needs than it solves. I no longer will have to ponder why people who make 120% of the average median income ($100K a year) count toward affordable housing.

I am sure, in your infinite wisdom, you will see that a conservation easement that prevents development on this land makes our community stronger, our traffic less, and increases the well-being of all who live here. It will also make the land under the UOP look a lot less like Draper. Yes, I and my fellow landowners are each willing to pay you $1,040 over the next twenty-six years to preserve our way of life.

All we ask in return is you don’t screw up Kimball Junction any more than it is.

Thank you for your kind consideration.


Josh Mann

Dakota Pacific? Is the Summit County Council still considering this terrible development?

There would be few developments worse for the Snyderville Basin than The Dakota Pacific development at the Tech Park. I have spoken directly to County Council members about this at a meeting at Hearth and Hill. I have spoken during a meeting of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission about this. I have spoken during a County Council meeting about this.

I am not alone. Some of the people who helped conceive of the Tech Park are against this. There are multiple posts on social media about this. There is a petition on its way to 1,000 signatures opposing this.

For those who have not been following this multi-year saga, Dakota Pacific, a local real-estate company, wants to take the land underneath the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) and make it another subdivision. There will be over eleven hundred apartments/condos. There will be 200,000 square feet of office space. There will be a hotel. There will be over 3,000 more people.

There will be more people than the city of Kamas stuffed into 60 acres below the UOP. Everything about Park City is crowded. Smashing a city the size of Kamas into the heart of Kimball junction is irresponsible.

The traffic impacts of 3,000 more people will be huge. The number of cars impacting Kimball Junction will be gigantic. How many residents will have one car? How many will have two cars? How many units will have two residents but at least one of them will drive to Salt Lake and back every day?

The water usage will be in the range of an extra 109,500,000 gallons of water each year for the residents of this development — not to mention more water required for landscaping, offices, etc. We are in a years-long drought. There is not enough water in Utah and we know that we have many existing entitlements that already have the rights to be built out. Where is the extra water going to come from?

Likewise, what are impacts of this developments on our schools? The County Council will be quick to tell you that they can’t consider this. However, in OUR REAL WORLD, you have to consider this. With more than a thousand new units how many more school aged children will there be? 300? 500?. Where will elementary students go to schools? Parley’s Park? Jeremy Ranch? They are full. In fact, we are voting on a bond that addresses those issues but it doesn’t account for this. If this is allowed, the school district will likely need to build another school on their property in Bear Hollow. It’s not a great spot, but they own it. The development will likely cost $20 million. That’s not planned for at all.

Let’s also not forget that the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission forwarded a negative recommendation to the County Council about the project. If the Council doesn’t listen to its own Planning Commission, what is the Planning Commission’s purpose? To rule over the slopes of driveways and fence lines? People on the Planning Commission have spent too much time and are too talented for their opinion to be overlooked on something this important.

That said, not everyone is against the plan.

Advocates say the project will provide needed, affordable housing. They state that Dakota Pacific Real Estate will help encourage UDOT to solve transportation problems at the Kimball Junction interchange. They argue that this property could provide needed transportation solutions like a better transit center. They claim the property will demonstrate the type of multi-use development we should have where residents will be able to walk to supermarkets and shopping. They conclude that the Tech Park is a failed idea, so why not throw a local developer a bone?

Let’s take a look at each of those issues.

Affordable Housing

The Park City area is the poster child for a confluence of affordable housing events that are striking most parts of our country. We have a resort community that relies on low-paid wages to fuel our economic engine. We buy open space and prevent development. We have strict rules about development. Property values are already sky high. So, it is easy to say, “we should build anything as long as it has an affordable housing component.” In truth, that is so misguided. Yes, in every development we should have an affordable housing component. However, we should not use affordable housing to justify doing bad developments. This is one of those.

Let’s look at the affordable housing estimates for this development and see what they provide. 55 units are slated to be rented at a price that can be afforded by folks making 30% to 50% of the Snydeville Basin’s area median income. The Snyderville Basin’s AMI as of 2019 (last on record that I could find) is $74,516 a year. That is the average income of someone living in Basin. So there will be 55 units that can be rented out for folks making $22K to $37K per year. That covers folks making $10-$17 per hour. So, out of this development we have 55 units that are affordable for most of our quick serve, super market, and Vail Resorts seasonal workers.

Dakota Pacific will rent 201 units at 40% to 80% of AMI (salary range of $29K to $60K). That’s below our teachers’ starting salaries but includes a number of other workers. Finally there are 80 “attainable units.” This “affordable housing” is for individuals making 100% to 120% of AMI. That is $74K to $89K a year. That’s a lot of money.

Is it enough to justify the impact of this development? Are we willing to trade what we have now for this development? That’s is the real question.

Is the affordable housing presented really affordable? Are we really locking people into rental-servitude that is being pushed by folks like Black Rock. Normally, I would say that the bargain is up to the buyer, but in this case WE are involved in creating that bargain.

I don’t believe this bargain is worth it. We don’t HAVE to give up a prime piece of real-estate, that will increase our traffic, reduce our water, impact our schools, and pack more people into our small town.

UDOT and Traffic

I consider the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) as the most powerful organization in Utah. Their budget is in the multiple billions of dollars. So, we are dependent on the kindness of UDOT and influence that our partners may have to make things happen.

The central idea of this development is that Dakota Pacific will use their influence to encourage UDOT to “fix” transportation issues in Kimball Junction. Many ideas have been floated. One idea is called a FLYOVER that would push traffic beyond Kimball Junction and into the Snyderville area. In human terms, imagine the concrete structure at the convergence of I-80 and Highway 40 implemented at Kimball Junction. That is a flyover. Would you like that at the entrance to Kimball Junction? I wouldn’t. I became involved in Summit county politics over a decade ago because I felt the newly built Del Taco blocked the ridge line view. This potential solution is 100 times worse.

Another idea is that UDOT would build a tunnel underneath Kimball Junction to route traffic from I-80 towards Park City. The two questions you must ask is what is the cost and have you ever see it before in Utah. The answer is hundreds of millions of dollars and no. Unless you have invested in Elon Musk’s Boring Company, you would likely not be in favor of this gamble.

Other ideas include making a bypass off of I-80 going through the Hi-Ute Ranch. However that land can’t be developed due to easements. Another idea is making a bypass cross over the Swaner Nature Preserve. That likely won’t fly as well for the same reasons.

That said, I could be short sighted. Maybe I am wrong and there is some magic to solving traffic in Kimball Junction. However, I would encourage you to ask yourself whether you believe a real estate company will actually solve our transportation issues at Kimball Junction. If so, the trade-off may be good enough for you. I don’t believe it will really happen, though.

Transit Center and Walkability

I have followed this development for many years. One of the defining characteristics, is that our county leaders talk about how this development will signal a new way of living in Park City. They envision that people living in “Dakota Heights” will walk to Smith’s and Walmart for groceries? Will some? Yes. Will most? No. Would you walk 3/4 of a mile in 12 inches of snow to get your groceries? That miscalculation can’t define this development but some leaders think it justifies the development.

Likewise, will most people living in “Dakota Heights” take the bus? I believe that 6% of people in Salt Lake take a bus regularly (and that’s a good number). Will we be substantially better than that? Maybe? Perhaps the dynamics of High Valley Transit are better. However, I take the bus quite often and I am generally one of three (or less) people on the bus. If this will really be a transit first development, remove the parking. Then remove the street parking. Don’t charge for parking because that’s regressive. Just say there is none.

I’d be much more inclined to believe the transit impacts would be negligible if there was no parking available for these 1,100 units. Yet, I don’t think Dakota Pacific would sign up for that because they know the truth. No matter what public transportation options are put into this development, most people will drive. They’ll drive into Park City. They will drive to Salt Lake. They will drive back. They will drive to the super market. They will drive to ski. They’ll drive to work. I get it. Many people drive to do those things. However, we don’t need 3,000 more people doing that. Especially in a congested area like Kimball Junction.

Tech Center is a Failed Idea

One of the arguments that advocates for changing the Boyer Tech Center into SLC Gateway 2 is that the tech center was a failed idea and it will never work. Tech will never come here. Therefore, we should convert it into housing, retail, office space, and a hotel.

The question I have is how effective Boyer was at pitching Park City? Were they good at pitching our tech center concept at conference, sales events, and meetings? I then question Dakota Pacific’s interest in fulfilling that mission. Did they buy a place that they wanted to make a Tech Center or did they think the county would fold, against our best interests, and they would get a steal.

The truth is that we need to diversify what we do. We shouldn’t be a one-trick-resort-pony. The truth is that there are many reasons for the land owners to not fight the long and hard battle of making us the next Silicon Slopes. It’s easier for them to throw up the next Draper.

However, that’s what they signed up for. That’s what we are owed. I’m not I’m not inclined to accept that this area has to become Little Draper. I’m not inclined to give it away. This is prized land. It’s valuable.

As we sit right now, the only body able to change the course of Dakota Pacific admin more congestion to Kimball Junction is the Summit County Council. So, I present the following arguments to them:

The future value of this property is so much higher tomorrow than it is today. If this was a house and you didn’t need to sell it, would you? No. The potential use for this property is so much greater in future. If we want a retail center, then we could do that at any time.

You know UDOT. There are no guarantees that they will do anything. More than that, even if they do something, there is no guarantee that their actions will fix hard problems. If you could trust them to have your back, they would have allowed an exemption for an off-ramp at I-80 and the Ecker Hill Park and Ride.

The additional water use additions are almost unconscionable. This development represents more than 100 million extra gallons of water used per year — that we don’t have. Then take into account the medium term impact of the shit-show that can be Wasatch County development and there is not enough water for this.

And finally, with affordable housing, I know we all want teachers, health workers, etc. who work here to live here. It makes for a stronger community. However, in this case the tradeoffs of traffic, water, and worse quality of life for our residents aren not worth it for the hundred units of actual affordable housing.

For everyone else, the question is whether you believe this development will provide a better quality of life for you. I could care less about providing a better quality of life for those people who don’t live here.

Perhaps this development will make things better for the entirety of the Snyderville Basin. I am skeptical. I view this as a cash grab by a developer who hoped they could influence the public to give them gold for nothing.

I don’t think that is how we should do things. I hope the Summit County Council will put an end to this idea.

If you want to reach the County Council, you can email:

If you want to sign the petition against this concept, please click here.

Park City and Summit County need to be careful and rational with Covid requirements

On Thursday, there is an NHL ice hockey game in Salt Lake at Vivint Arena. The Vegas Golden Knights are playing the L.A. Kings. It should have been a fun event; however, the Covid-handling of this game provides a cautionary tale to our local governments and businesses.

Weeks ago, Ticketmaster announced that adults would need to be fully vaccinated and kids under 12 would need to wear masks to be admitted to the game. Personally, my family fits into that requirement, so that’s no big deal for us. Then yesterday we received another email from Ticketmaster stating that Vivint was changing those terms. They said all kids under 12 now had to have a negative Covid test within the last 72 hours.

What? How do you get a test result in less than 36 hours until the game?

“How you do it” is that my wife got the kids out the door at 7 AM this morning and went to the Park City School District testing facility before school. She took advantage of our school’s rapid testing facility. Our neighbor did the same. However, two of our kids’ friends decided to skip the game because they were afraid of getting tested. Fair enough. I get it.

So, the impact of this decision was to encourage us to misuse public resources because there were no other options (other than giving away hundreds of dollars in tickets).

In hindsight, should we have used the school Covid testing facilities? I’m not sure, but there were no other alternatives from our perspective. My 9-year-old did tell them he was there so he could see the Vegas Golden Knights and they didn’t object. However, I am certain they didn’t intend to offer school testing so kids could go to a hockey game.

By the way, three hours after my kids were tested, Vivint issued a Tweet (because we all follow Twitter) that kids didn’t have to be tested, after all.

Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it understandable? I don’t know.

It really sickens me that my family used public resources when it wasn’t required. I’d love for PCSD and the Health Department to send a $150 bill to Vivint. I’m sure my wife would like two hours of her life back. I’m sure my kids would rather have not undergone the stress of a Covid test. I’m sure that the kids who decided that front row seats at an NHL game weren’t worth getting prodded by the Covid machine, would have rather not dealt with that stress.

None of that can be taken back.

However, locally we can be aware of the repercussions of decisions like these. I think often officials in Summit County error the side of being strict with Covid. That is probably generally OK. It may allow our schools to stay open and enable us to have a ski season. However, there is always a cost.

As we progress through this Covid-world, we need to make sure we think through all the unintended consequences of our community’s actions. What often sounds good, often isn’t in reality.

To mask or not to mask in Park City Schools

School starts next week. In the scheme of things, that is a minor miracle. You can give Superintendent Dr. Gildea and the School Board all the crap you want, but they navigated us through the most challenging year in Park City school history. They found a way to make it work. Kudos to them. It couldn’t have been easy.

This year is more complicated. Are your kids going to wear a mask to school? As of now, that is your and your kids’ choice. Summit County’s Health Department theoretically could demand masks, but the County Attorney isn’t sure a mandate from the County would be legally enforceable in schools. If they got around their legal concerns, then the County Council would have the opportunity to overturn that order if wanted. Then, even if the council required masks, it is likely the Utah state Legislature wouldn’t allow it to stand.

Masks won’t be required in schools. Such is Utah — for better and worse.

That said, over fifty people arrived at the Richen’s Building in Kimball Junction on Wednesday to speak for and against masks in our schools. It’s the sort of activism that makes local politics so unique. You can actually make a difference.

In this case, a public groundswell of people who favored masks in schools wanted to make their voices heard during Public Comment at the County Council meeting. Those people opposed to masking mandates also seized upon the Public Comment opportunity to voice their opinions. For those who may not be aware, Public Comment is a period at 6 PM during each County Council meeting where people can speak for three minutes on any topic that isn’t listed on that meeting’s agenda. It’s a great opportunity if you happen to have concerns because the County Council impacts our daily lives and they are generally more than happy to listen.

The comments from the public followed the typical debate over masks. The difference, in this case, was that it was our neighbors, who we know, expressing their feelings about masks in schools. That’s different from someone on MSNBC or Fox News with the standard talking points. On the mask side, the arguments boiled down to it worked last year, we should keep our kids safe, the variant is worse, and you don’t have the right to infringe on others’ rights (to health and safety). On the non-mask side, the arguments ranged from parents’ right to choose, to allowing children’s immune system to develop naturally, to statistics about impacts on children, and you don’t have the right to infringe on others’ rights.

My personal favorite comment was a measured one. One gentleman basically said, let’s do a mask mandate for 30 days and compare Park City to other areas. That can then further instruct the future. It’s an interesting idea.

While I like reporting on issues impacting the Park City area, regular readers will know that this issue is personal for me. I have two kids at Jeremy Ranch. I don’t know what our family is going to do. My kids are fortunate enough not to have disabilities that make mask-wearing hard or detrimental to education. They don’t mind masks. At the same time, I believe by the end of the day, my kids’ masks are dirty, cesspools of germs that likely negatively impact them.

So, as of now, here is my family’s approach. We are going to privately ask our teachers if they have a reason they would prefer everyone to wear a mask. Some of our teachers in the past have had cancer or other issues. We will respect that and wear masks to protect them if that is better for their health.

If they state no preference, we are trying to teach our kids how Covid is typically transmitted and ask them to wear masks during those times. If they are in a classroom for an hour, 3 feet from other kids, keep your mask on. Are you lining up, six inches from the next student? Put your mask on. Are you outside at recess? Don’t bother.

I know that there are flaws in every one of those ideas and the plan isn’t perfect. However, it is a compromise.

We will likely send two masks and ask them to switch mid-day, to mitigate the cesspool effect.

The question I keep asking myself is would I really want a mask mandate? There are undoubtedly health benefits to masks, but I could say that about masks preventing things like the flu. Would I want a forever-mandate because they reduce the transmission of lots of viruses? Probably not — that would seem miserable to me.

Yet, if a mask mandate kept our schools open all year, would I want it? Probably.

So, do I want a mandate? Maybe? I just don’t know.

The reality is that I won’t have to make a decision on a mandate. Masks will be optional, but my kids will wear them when practical or all the time if their teacher(s) need the help. That’s what we are going to do, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Regardless, I love the fact that so many people showed up to discuss an issue so politically charged. We once again showed that we as a community can have a civil discussion.

Below is a quick cut of the various comments at the meeting. If you have time to watch, the entire segment gives you an overview of what our community is generally thinking.

As always, we are all in this together. We’re going to have to work together to make it through another year. We can do this.

Two things we expect at the next Park City School Board meeting

Happy Summer. School is out and we made it through the most challenging school year in Park City’s recent history. Kudos to the School Board, Dr. Gildea, teachers, and all the staff that made it happen. Compared to so many districts across the country, we have done well with regard to Covid. Good job everyone.

Yet, Park City is a strange place. We can’t seem to get out of our own way. We make things harder than they should be. Two things come to mind with the Park City School District.

First, the School Board needs to accept public input at meetings —and for as many hours as it takes. In the previous School Board meeting, the district did not allow for public comment. I’m not sure whether the board hates criticism, hates that they will get home two hours later than they think, or just thinks the criticism they are getting isn’t warranted.

I would encourage the School Board to attend a Snyderville Basin Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission starts at 6 PM (or earlier) and sometimes stretches until almost midnight. They are discussing everything from the slope of a driveway to whether the Tech Park Should become a hotel. It’s hard, but that’s what they signed up for. They allow everyone to talk and often times for more than the “normal 3 minutes” of allotted time. They want to ensure people have their say and learn from the community’s perspective. And yes, they take their fair share of abuse.

The Park City School Board needs to do the same. Public input needs to be accepted and (more importantly) listened to — even if it is uncomfortable. That’s how we get better. If the School Board won’t allow for Public comment at the June 15th meeting, the Park Rag will provide a way for people to provide their school related public comment. It’s important.

Second, the School Board needs to have an agenda item that clarifies the Park City School District’s position on whether teachers have the right for their children to attend the school where they teach. We have heard that the district claims nothing has changed from previous years. Yet, from specific records we have been provided, denial notices are being sent to teachers that prevent their children from attending the school at which they teach. There is some disconnect here. This could be solved by a policy GUARANTEEING teachers’ children can attend the school at which they teach.

The standard play from authorities like the School District is to ignore the issue and hope it blows over. That’s where we are now. Our intent is not to let that happen.

So, we are hoping to hear two things related to the Park City School District during the June 15 Park City School Board Meeting. First, there will be public comment that enables our citizens (the people who fund the district) to provide comment, during the meeting and on the record, on how things are going. Second, we want to hear that any teacher’s children can attend the school at which their parent teaches, regardless of whether the school is “full” or not.

If the School District can’t do these two simple things, it’s unlikely we can trust them with more than a hundred million dollars to rebuild our school infrastructure in the coming years.

Hopefully they will address both public comment and teachers’ children in the meeting next week. Then we can get on to discussing master plan ideas(i.e. new buildings) and deciding what is really best for our school district.

Until the Park City School Board shows competence and respect to the public, everything else is tainted.