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Park City school board president responds to state audit

Contaminated soil piles sit behind Treasure Mountain Junior High in Park City on Aug. 24, 2023.
Rick Egan
The Salt Lake Tribune
Contaminated soil piles sit behind Treasure Mountain Junior High in Park City on Aug. 24, 2023.

A state audit published this week pointed out a need for more standard procedures at the Park City School District.

The report published by the Legislative Auditor General highlighted several issues at the Park City School District, including contaminated soils stored on school property, lack of construction permits, and areas where student performance could improve.

Auditors said that the school district didn’t comply with state and local requirements for its school expansion projects.

Park City Board of Education President Andrew Caplan has blamed Summit County for the construction woes.

“School districts are not subject to the same planning requirements that other entities or private businesses are,” Caplan said. “The one exception this time around was that the county took a different view on that. We actually applied for a judgment from the state ombudsman, and they tended to agree with us. Unless there is a specific issue with public safety, or safety for children, or safety around construction, they don’t have oversight.”

But the ombudsman ruled the county was right when it ordered the school district to stop working on construction projects last year due to a lack of proper permits.

Along with construction, state auditors recommend the school district also beef up its oversight when it comes to environmental regulations.

Waste piles of contaminated soil placed behind Treasure Mountain Junior High doesn’t comply with federal and local regulations, the report says.

Officials with the school district have estimated the cost to clean up the soil at roughly $3 million.

Caplan said they’re waiting for instructions from the state department of environmental quality, or DEQ.

“Everyone who has lived here a very long time knows that there are mine tailings everywhere in Prospector, on the Kearns campus, in the Rail Trail, on PC Hill,” he said. “In the past, the guidance has been to cap the soil. That’s what has happened. Now, the DEQ is still looking at it, and letting us know if they would like us to move the soil that has mine tailings in it. And so that’s where we are, there’s a lot of back and forth.” 

The audit also found that Park City schools could do a better job of making sure all racial and ethnic groups perform at a high level.

Caplan said the board of education has long been aware of systemic gaps in student performance.

“There’s an achievement gap between our lowest income and our highest income students,” he said. “We’re working on that, and it’s an issue that is somewhat unique to our community. If you look at the surrounding districts, they don’t have that same level of income disparity.”

In June the school board approved a new equity policy, which says the district will provide equal opportunities based upon the needs of each individual student.

The full audit can be found here.