Press enter to see results or esc to cancel.

Random Thoughts on Wednesday’s School Board Meeting on Rebuilding Our Schools

On Wednesday, the Park City School Board met to discuss the recommendation of its Master Planning Committee on tearing down, rebuilding, and adding on to ours schools. Here are some random thoughts from the 5 hours of the meeting I was able to watch:

  • The school district will go forward with a bond. It will likely be primarily for tearing down Treasure Mountain, adding on Park City High School to the west, moving Dosier Field to the east side of campus, redoing the traffic flow on the Kearns campus, adding on to McPolin, and building a 5/6 at Ecker Hill.
  • There was a great debate over exactly what was needed to “add on to McPolin.” School Board member Julie Eihausen gave an impassioned plea that she was elected to help ensure fiscal discipline and that she didn’t believe adding on to McPolin was fiscally smart. She essentially asked why we should add capacity before we need it and risk using it on out of district students. Administrators at McPolin essentially said they would have enough room for all day Kindergarten, without adding on. Yet, the school superintendent, Dr Ember Conley pushed hard for it.
  • After all that, they still decided to include it in the bond… but said “the money wouldn’t be used unless it was really needed. That’s a little bit like my 3 year old saying “just give me the cookie. I won’t eat it unless I’m hungry.”
  • All I could do was try to read Ms. Eihausen’s expressions on her face regarding the “McPolin money” still being included in the bond. I wouldn’t say her expressions showed she was happy with that route and I wouldn’t say she completely won the battle, but it does stand up there with one of the best tries at being fiscally responsible that I have see with regard to this process. So, I guess this is one we’ll have to keep a close eye on over the next 10 years to make sure that $3-$4 million required to add on to McPolin is only used ONLY IF NEEDED…and always stands available should it be required.
  • It was said that the discussion over rebuilding Treasure Mountain Junior High started the master planning process but that the growth of Park City is what is forcing so many changes with regard to this process. I would say that the stated reasons for rebuilding are a little bit like sands in the desert — constantly shifting. But since we are about at the end of this process, we’ll go ahead and hold the school district to growth and the need to help our Hispanic kids as the reasons for this project.
  • I know it’s just a personal opinion, but I think they have misjudged the “school” growth needs in the Basin. In 5 years I wouldn’t be surprised to see less kids in our schools than today. Factor in a coming recession, lack of residential space in the Park City school district boundaries, the rise of second homes, and the district low end growth estimates (loss of .3% of kids per year) and a forecast of fewer kids isn’t exactly crazy. Again, I could be wrong but we’ll see.
  • This meeting had some of the best discussions I have seen with regard to the school board. You can tell these people really care about doing what they think is best.
  • At the end of the meeting, it was mentioned that the entire school board needed to provide a unified front on this plan. During a straw poll, School Board Member Nancy Garrison was the only member who thought we should leave Dosier where it is and expand the high school to the south. Yet, the board will provide a unified front stating that they all believe the same thing. That seems to happen a lot, if not always, with the school board. I think that is a huge mistake. It’s as if they think that any alternative opinions makes them weak. I think it makes them stronger. Which is a stronger statement? “We the school board completely agree on this entire proposal” or “We the school board have some differing opinions about some of the details of this plan. For instance, Nancy doesn’t believe that the high school should expand to the west. However, she overwhelming believes the plan AS A WHOLE is the right thing for our community.” To me, one sounds manufactured and while the other one sounds real.
  • I think Julie Eihausen’s comments about looking to change boundaries before we invest additional millions makes a lot of sense and wish they would have considered that more strongly.
  • The bond the public will be asked to vote on in November is really for allocating money around general concepts (like moving the 5/6 school). The details aren’t really considered. Having not seen this type of process before, that was a little shocking. It’s been said many times that “that’s how it’s done.” I guess my advice for us public is to get any specifics of what will be built out of your mind. Yes, there will be another school area at Ecker Hill. Will it be a stand alone building? Will it be added wings to the current building? Will it be purple? No one knows yet. That’s the case with this whole process. Faith… lot’s of faith.
  • Nancy Garrison was very focused on educational aspects. It was all about the kids in many of the points she brought up (which was great to see that focus).
  • My odds on VCBO, the firm handling planning of this process, also getting the architectural contract for the rebuild (the real money)? Over 80% .
  • I didn’t see the School Board thank Rory Murphy for his service as co-head of the Master Planning Committee. He spent over 9 months on this process (for free). Perhaps I just missed the “big thanks.” I hope so. If not, that was a gross oversight.
  • They actually had designated space on their plans for a PC CAPS section of the high school. When one of the school board members said she didn’t remember seeing that discussion in any minutes (and that they just renovated the library for PC CAPS), the school superintendent said that it was just general space and could be used for lot of things. This whole PC CAPS building is like a zombie where the public keeps trying to kill it and it comes back to life. My odds of a dedicated space being built and used for PC CAPS (outside of the library): 90%
  • Phil Kaplan, the newest board member, gave a good summary of why many members felt they should expand the high school to the west and move Dosier:
    • It consolidates athletics in one are (the east side of campus) and academics on the other
    • Their are more possibilities for future expansion
    • It doesn’t impact transportation as much
  • There was a strong focus on putting in turf fields. Jamie Sheetz, Athletics and Activities Director, made a good case that having turf that could be plowed was more important than a fieldhouse (if you couldn’t do both). He said that gets kids outside to practice in the months leading up to spring and reduces wear and tear on Dosier, and use of Basin Rec. It also may get kids home from practice earlier each night.
  • Rory Murphy, Co-head of Master Planning, warned that moving Dosier field was an emotional issue and it could cause a lot of people to vote no for the bond on that principle alone. The board decided to risk that by going forward with adding on to the high school to the west and moving Dosier. It will be interesting to see who was right.

Leave a Comment