Park City School District On Legislative Watch
Each year, the Park City School District carefully watches legislation during the 45-day session. They’re monitoring school safety bills, standardized testing policy and bills requiring seat belts on school buses.
After the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida last year, the legislature formed a commission on school safety to evaluate operational and facility needs. Park City School District Business Administrator, Todd Hauber says the Elementary Schools are on track with entryway upgrades and visitor check in systems. Perimeter fencing is also in place for all four elementary schools. He says they’ve completed the design work on all the secondary schools and they’re ready to pull together the contractors. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher asks about her recent visit to the high school.
“I just walked in a side door. And, walked right in. I mean, nobody asked me anything. I had to go to the office to find out where I was going.”
Hauber explains, “So, in that case we have to put all those measures in place. So, we have a lot of behavioral management and change in attitudes that will need to take place at all the schools. Because, there are those that are helpful. You know, they see someone outside who wants in, and I’ll let them in. We have to change that mind set to let them know that the way in is from the front entrance. It may be inconvenient but that’s for security purposes. We need you to enter through the front doors and check in.”
Hauber says they are looking at locking systems allowing administration to lock all exterior doors from a single switch. And, they are considering more security cameras.
About half of Park City High School Students opt-out of taking standardized tests. House Bill 118 would allow teachers to use incentives to get more students to opt-in on standardized tests.
“So, if an incentive isn’t put in place, then you’re still free to opt-out. So, we’ll have some policy conversations as to how that might be implemented at the school district, whether the teachers will be expected to have a standardized test as part of their grading structure. The question then becomes, how rigorous will we make that for out teachers? Will that be a required part of their curriculums, will it not be?"
Currently Utah schools are given letter grades each year that are partially based on the results of standardized tests. There is a bill to eliminate that practice and use other means for evaluating a school’s academic performance.
Last year, Governor Gary Herbert made a plea for more people to pursue teaching careers. There’s a bill this year to require all schools perform teacher exit interviews. Hauber says they are already taking place in the Park City school district.
“So, right now, we capture it. We understand our dynamics in our area but we’re not reporting that out to the state legislature or to the state board of education. This bill just makes sure that those surveys take place and get communicated up the line.”
House Bill 168 would require seat belts on school buses purchased after 2020. There’s a study committee looking at school bus crash data to determine if they would make students safer. Hauber cites a couple of accident scenarios that make it a complicated decision.
“Where some serious accidents took place and had seat belts been on those buses, students would have fared better. In Utah, we have our own experience in Juab county. There was a school bus accident in which, because of the nature of the accident, the students were thrown forward in their seats. And, their heads were down below the seats and a piece of debris came right through the bus and it would have decapitated the children, had they been in a seat belt. So, now you’re looking at what type of accident are we trying to mitigate and improve the situation for students on the buses.”
Hauber says there is no fiscal note attached to the bill which means if it passes, school districts would cover the costs of the new seat belt regulations.
The school district has decided to use propane fueled buses for future purchases. They are thought to be able to handle the hilly geography and are more cost effective, in addition to running cleaner.