Where Should Park City Schools Move
Earlier we had written that the Park City School District isn’t considering all ideas regarding rebuilding Treasure Mountain Junior High. We feel that the process is too insular, is not helping solve problems, and isn’t including other parts of government. So, if we were king, what would we do?
We would start by moving the entire Kearns campus. Crazy? Hear us out.
The Snyderville Basin has a transportation problem. You become acutely aware of this as you head into town on 248 in the morning. The School Board’s Master Planning Committee will likely recommend changes that will only increase traffic on 248 during peak periods. As County Council Member Roger Armstrong recently said, having visitors sit in traffic hurts Park City’s brand. It also makes it very painful for us locals. So why do it? Why not follow Summit County’s Community Development Department lead and put the new Treasure Mountain Junior High School (TMJHS) somewhere else?
The natural place is on the open space on the east side of Highway 40. This is currently outside of the school district boundaries (it’s in South Summit School district) and the School Board is worried about taking property taxes from South Summit. However, if TMJHS was placed somewhere between Home Depot and Quinn’s Junction, they could likely expand the boundaries of Park City School District to just this area, without including any homes, and thus not rob South Summit of any tax dollars.
Then consider the concept of not only moving TMJHS there but also moving Park City High School, McPolin Elementary, and the School Districts administrative offices there. The new area would become the Park City School District Campus. What would happen to the 80 acres along Kearns Blvd that currently is owned by the board of education? Park City Municipal could have an opportunity to decide what it wanted its entry corridor to look like. If done right, Park City could zone this land appropriately, the school board could sell this land, and the new campus could largely be built on these funds. What would 80 acres in the heart of Park City sell for? A lot.
The new campus would likely be separate buildings (or possibly wings in a large building) housing an elementary school (McPolin), 7th-8th, and 9th-12th. Resources like gyms, pools, auditoriums, fields, band/orchestra rooms, etc. could be shared. Teachers would have the opportunity to advance and teach a variety of subjects in the age groups they desired (once they were appropriately certified). The school district would benefit from reducing costs through shared spaces and more efficient utilization of teachers. Administration costs would likely be a little lower as well.
The entire school district would benefit from a campus purpose built with tomorrow’s technology and teaching requirements in mind. There would be ample space for concepts like PC CAPS. Teachers wouldn’t be constrained by 1980’s facilities.
The campus should also have room for expansion. As Jeremy Ranch, Trailside, Parley’s Park, and Ecker Hill buildings wear out, the schools could move to the new campus. The land housing the old schools could be sold to fund the additions to the campus. Eventually, all schools would be at the Park City Campus — sharing teachers, facilities, and amenities. It may also be possible to entice an organization like Salt Lake Community College or Utah Valley University to build next to the campus. That would further increase post-high school options in both college and technical courses.
So, what does each party get out of it:
Park City Municipal:
- It regains control over its entry corridor.
- It likely gets additional tax dollars from whatever is built on the former school district land.
- Traffic is reduced on 248.
- The county has a lot of land that is slated for development. Building a school campus is likely preferable to almost any other type of development.
- It eventually removes school traffic from existing neighborhoods (Jeremy Ranch, Ecker Hill area, Synderville, Trailside).
- As additional growth comes to Summit County, schools will be moving out to the campus. The old school land could be appropriately zoned to help control that growth (whatever that meant at the time the school moved).
Park City School District:
- A state of the art facility for its teachers and administrators
- Reduced ongoing costs through shared spaces and shared teachers
- Ability to offer more and better programs
- A “planned” campus built around today’s concepts
- Ability to attract the best teachers based on working at the best facility in Utah
- Could offer speciality classes that may not be financially viable now
Park City Kids:
- More classes to choose from throughout their tenure
- More exposure to art and music classes than now may be possible
- More athletic opportunities
- Fewer transitions between schools
- A better place to go every day
- Lot’s of opportunity to grow
- Ability to teach across age groups (given proper certifications were achieved)
- Potentially smaller classes depending on classes offered and teacher availability
- Use today’s technology tools to enhance education
There are of course obstacles to overcome. The land is toxic and all parties would need to work with United Park City Mines to get this area remediated from mine tailings. Park City and Summit County would likely need to rezone areas to make this all work, as well.
Perhaps most importantly we need to devise the optimal traffic strategy. Do we work with UDOT and the county to build additional roads (and ways) into the campus? Do we make the campus bus-only for students/parents without a special permit? We are sure there are people smarter than us to consider those options. However, we do think a new campus offers the ability to look at transportation in new ways. This land is adjacent to the Rail Trail, as well. How could we use that to our advantage?
While any plan has to overcome hurdles, we think this plan has a number of merits. Is our plan small and easy to implement? No. But If done right, does it offer a 50 year plan for our schools? Yes. Does it reduce transportation issues throughout the Basin? Yes. Is there a benefit to most user groups? Yes.
While we admit that this idea will probably never be considered and the odds are 1000:1 that in 2017 school traffic will be backed up onto Highway 40 – due to a new TMJHS on Kearns, we do think its consideration has merit.
Regardless, we do hope people understand there are creative ideas that can be devised that help our community as a whole. Maybe this isn’t the right plan, but we can’t rely on the same thinking that has gotten us into this mess to get us out of it.
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