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Why Again Should We Tear Down Treasure Mountain Junior High?

During last night’s School Board Master Planning Committee meetings, people were divided into 6 groups. Each of these groups decided where they should put schools on a map (if they were to choose). This included tearing down and building new schools. The process started with Molly Smith, the meeting organizer, presenting example solutions. A participant asked why Ms Smith had not suggested tearing down Treasure Mountain in her examples. The participant essentially said she thought that was a given. Someone then chimed in that Treasure Mountain would cost more to renovate than to rebuild. They said it would cost $29 million.

When the 6 groups came back and all recommended tearing down Treasure Mountain, with not a mention of why, again it seemed like a foregone conclusion. I’m not sure why that is. One of the original reasons the Master Planning Committee was brought together was to decide if Treasure Mountain Junior High Should be torn down.

Yet now, it wasn’t the focus of the discussion at all. It’s like a murder trial where guilt is assumed and the jury spends all their time on how they should kill the man.

To be fair, I was not sitting with each group throughout their discussions. Perhaps there were lengthy discussions in each group on whether it made sense to tear down Treasure Mountain. Yet, my gut tells me there weren’t many discussions (perhaps participants could validate or invalidate that assumption).

My guess is that it was a foregone conclusion in most people’s minds. The participants had a huge teacher component. Have teachers heard “through the grapevine” that Treasure Mountain was going to be blown up? Has it been said one too many times on KPCW? What was it? I’m not sure, but it sure seems like a given.

My problem with assuming Treasure Mountain should be torn down is that it shouldn’t be a given. I understand that there is a universal dislike for Treasure Mountain school. There are universal dislikes for many schools, but it doesn’t mean they should be torn down. I understand that there are problems with pipes. According to rough estimates by the school, that’s about a $3 million dollar problem to fix. I understand the soil tested (which was on the ball fields and grass by the way) is no danger to students but should be remediated. The EPA said they would pay for that.

I then look at the document that everyone references when they say it will take $29 million to FIX Treasure Mountain. That includes adding an auditorium, widening halls, a new lecture hall, upgraded electrical, etc. Some of that $29 million is likely REQUIRED but not all of it… not a large part of it.

Then I look at SAGE test scores for Treasure Mountain Students. We are supposed to be a data driven school district. Treasure Mountain’s SAGE results of 57% competency in language, 51% in Math, and 56% in science are in line with our flagship High School (53%, 46%, 55%) and Ecker Hill (59%, 50%, 59%). What I heard last night from one teacher, that got positive ovations, was that we want to spend money on things that educate our children. Looking at the two “best” schools in our district, just building a school doesn’t seem to help that.

This isn’t to say that I necessarily think tearing down a school built in 1983, doesn’t make sense on some levels. But I don’t think it should be assumed though.

I’m sure there are a flood of people, many of them teachers, reading this and thinking I have two heads. I can hear them say, “you try teaching there!” or “Don’t you care about the children?”. I actually do care about the kids (and you) and that is why I’m concerned.

This effort is going to cost a lot of money. A bond will likely be issued to pay for it. All home owners around Park City are going to be paying this off for 40 years. This comes on top of a basin rec bond last year and tax increases by the School District and county over the past few years. At some point, citizens will likely stand up and say ENOUGH. That’s not likely to happen with this bond because it has already been drilled into everyone’s head as a foregone conclusion. However, it very well may happen on the next tax increase. That tax increase, if passed, would probably be for teacher salaries.

Because I completely agree that the most important things are what’s being taught and who’s teaching it, I want our kids to have the best we can afford. If we keep spending huge amounts of money on things that may not be necessary, we just may find that when we really want something, the public isn’t going to allow it. That would be too bad. But it is avoidable.

So do I advocate keeping Treasure Mountain and not rebuilding it? I’m not sure. However, I do advocate having a public discussion about that in depth with good information that isn’t used to mislead people.

That said, it already feels a little too late for that. So, we’ll likely steam-roll forward to a bond in November for what was originally supposed to be just rebuilding a school but is now probably redesigning a campus — that may not even be needed.

Will there be a cost to our kids and teachers if this comes to pass? If so, how big? We’ll probably find that out in a few years.



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