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Park City School District board approves $1.3M teen center plans

Design renderings of the future teen center in the Park City High School
Park City School District
Design renderings of the future teen center in the Park City High School

The Park City School District Board of Education has approved plans to build a teen center at the high school. But some board members still have concerns.

Teen centers are spaces in schools meant to provide support and resources for young people including laundry, showers, pantries and counseling. State lawmakers allocated $15 million to build teen centers in 2023 to support the more than 15,000 students in the state classified as homeless and to help students experiencing mental health challenges.

The Park City School District received two grants to build a teen center at Park City High School: $250,000 from the Utah State Board of Education and $30,000 from the Policy Project. On top of the grant funding, the center will cost the district more than $1 million to build. However, the district must complete the teen center by June 30, 2025, to keep the grant.

Scott Later from MHTN Architects presented teen center plans to the board Tuesday. It will occupy the old woodshop area at the high school. A new construction lab is already slated to be built in the Career and Technical Education area of the school.

Later said the roughly 3,800-square-foot teen center would feature a living room, a pantry with grab-and-go food, a zen or recharge area, two small classrooms and three offices for social workers and mental health coaches.

Further, the district is rebranding the space from a teen center to a student center. While the district has between 51 and 125 students classified as homeless, it wants to include space for all students rather than focusing on kids who experience housing insecurity. For example, Superintendent Jill Gildea said since the school doesn’t have a traditional library, the classrooms would give students space to work on group projects.

The Park City School District Board approved plans to build the teen center pressured by the looming June 2025 deadline. However, members still had concerns. Board member Anne Peters worried the classrooms would discourage students from using amenities in the center.

“I’ve learned some staggering statistics about how many homeless children we have in our school. So this is really their safety net, they go to do laundry, they can make a meal, they don't have to do it publicly,” she said. “This just doesn't feel conducive to any of that. It feels like I'm going to a classroom.”

The center would be open after school hours for students to do laundry and grab snacks uninterrupted. But board vice president Wendy Crossland said she wouldn’t support the project until the budget includes funds to staff the center.

Later and his team argued the teen center won’t need additional staff since its opening coincides with the realignment and reassignment of positions in the district.

Board member Nicholas Hill voiced concerns about a lack of storage since the teen center will fill the space designated for the art department for things like musical equipment. Later said his team will create a new storage plan Wednesday.

During the board meeting, Hill said, while a teen center is important and can be life-changing, he felt there were too many concerns to approve the project. However, board president Andrew Caplan argued the plans should be approved due to the time constraints.

“I would prefer to go forward with it because of the grant we have,” he said. “The fact that we're already doing construction there, and we have a $300,000 discount, I think the window’s probably now.”

The board unanimously approved the teen center project and agreed to monitor concerns and find other space solutions.

Learn more at the district's FAQ page.