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Community, school board debate mask compliance at Parley's Park

Kris Choi
The Park City School Board on Nov. 16, 2021. Board member Andrew Caplan is second from left facing the camera.

In Tuesday’s Park City School Board meeting, a board member said Summit County informed them that Parley’s Park Elementary complied with a public health order starting November 1 - despite reports and an investigation the school did not.   

In Tuesday’s meeting, Ann Evans, parent of a Parley’s Park student, criticized the district for not following the health order that took effect when the 2% positive COVID-19 case count triggered an automatic mask mandate at the school. From November 1 to November 5, school staff told families the decision to wear a mask was up to parents or guardians.

“It's comforting that Parley’s is now doing what the district and health department originally agreed to," she said. "Not enforcing a legal health order when you said you would and leaving hundreds of--I'm not finished-- and leaving hundreds of families misled for nearly a week defies what our school leaders should embody when making decisions about our children, whom we entrust to you.”

Andrew Caplan at School Board Meeting November 17, 2021.jpeg
Andrew Caplan-Park City School District Board of Education Member during meeting November 16, 2021

Board Member Andrew Caplan said if Evans has a trust issue, she should look to the people who told her the district was in violation.

"Perhaps the trust issue is better served, asking them why they said that," Caplan said. "Because again, we have letters from the county, and we have letters from the health department. I understand your frustration, but again, the mask mandate was followed, we were up to code, according to the county. So, you guys can choose to believe what you want. But you can ask the county, the county health department, and they will tell you the same thing--that there was no violation of the mask mandate."

Evans: "That is not my understanding."

Caplan: "That’s okay. You can ask the county health department."

Evans (to other board members):  "Does everybody here agree with that?"

Park City Board of Education Vice President Wendy Crossland: "Our statement that we wrote at the beginning about that week being reviewed is……"

Evans: "So, you all agree that you were in compliance with the health order from November 1 to November 5?"

Caplan: "The county health department has made that statement.”

But Summit County Health Department Director Phil Bondurant told KPCW the county has not given any statement to the school district.

Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson is investigating why the school did not comply with the order the first week.

She said a notice of violation was not issued on Monday the 8th because when county inspectors arrived at Parley’s Park Elementary, the school was following the order, which was her first priority.

"...not what had happened in the past or who said what to whom when in the preceding days but making sure compliance was going to be put into effect immediately," Olson said. "Step two is determining what went wrong last week because I think it's apparent that things went terribly wrong.”

Superintendent Jill Gildea also acknowledged Nov. 7 what she called her communication errors at PPES and said the school would have, quote, "a reset" to comply with the mandate.

Caplan did not respond to a request for documentation or evidence to support his claim that no violations occurred.

On Thursday, school board attorney Joan Andrews sent KPCW a letter saying the school board would not engage with the station until they know "the outcome of the review of what happened during week one of the Parley’s Park Elementary School mandate."

Andrews also said KPCW’s use of the term ‘fake news’ in a report Wednesday mischaracterized Caplan. Andrews said that term "appears deliberately calculated to create the belief in the community that Mr. Caplan is opposed to Summit County Public Health Order mask mandate, which he is not, nor is the Board as a whole."

KPCW removed the words fake news, which had been used to describe the tone of Caplan’s message but were not attributed to him as a direct quote. KPCW doesn’t believe the phrase was used inaccurately, but for clarity has replaced the term with direct quotes Caplan made during the meeting.

The full letter from the school board attorney to KPCW can be read here:

KPCW's response to the school district:

Updated: November 22, 2021 at 12:43 PM MST
This report was updated Nov. 22, 2021 to include KPCW's response to the Park City School District's lawyer's letter.
KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
Michelle, who joined KPCW in 2021, arrived in Utah in 2018 by way of Massachusetts, where the skiing was icy and the mosquitoes formidable. A former daily newspaper reporter and editor (at the Visalia Times-Delta in CA) and columnist (at The Cohasset Mariner in MA), Michelle has been a writer and editor for decades. She holds a journalism degree from CSU Fresno and has worked as a journalist, freelance writer and web content creator, reporting extensively on education and youth along with general assignment and breaking news.