Two high schools or one? One middle school for 1400 students or two of equal size? Should sixth graders be at the elementary schools or in middle school? Until the Park City community can answer those cornerstone questions, the master planning process can’t move forward.
After seven months of meetings and a quarter million dollars spent on master planning consultants – it will be up to the community to decide what the future of the Park City School District looks like.
Chris Guarino the Managing Director for the Denver based consulting firm NV5 - the person leading this effort - told school board members Tuesday that until they have these cornerstones in place, the process can’t move forward.
While grade realignment – basically deciding where students will go to class – was one of five hot topics discussed these last several months, Guarino said it was the most important.
Using the community’s established guiding principles, the consensus from steering committee and task force members he said it that 9th grade should be moved back to the high school and that the 7th and 8th grades should be together.
Using a scoring system, two options - A and B - tied as the steering committee’s preferred options. At Tuesday’s presentation, Guarino focused on Option A – which would keep grades K to 5 in the elementary schools. Grades 6 through 8 in middle school and grades 9-12 in high school.
Using the projected growth figures for 2027, it’s expected there will be 2200 elementary students. While that number doesn’t automatically trigger the construction of an additional elementary school, he said they would need to add on to existing elementary schools to accommodate the growth.
The projected 6th to 8th grade population in 2027 will be 1350 students. The options there are to add on to Ecker Hill – or if the community thinks that’s too big of a school – to have a second middle school of equal size – either at Treasure Mountain or at another unidentified location.
For the high school there were 4 options presented. 1900 high school students are estimated by 2027. The community could chose to build on to the existing high school – or to build a second high school of a similar size– or possibly use Treasure Mountain or continue to use the high school as is and build a new specialty high school with a CTE or Career and Technology Education focus – or he says a new CTE center could be built that would house 6 to 12 graders who are following the CTE pathway.
But until the community decides where its students should be, Guarino said the master planning efforts can’t move forward. The high school decision he said needs to be made first – so the community can decide what happens at Ecker Hill and Treasure.
All of the options he said still have a number of options within themselves that would have to be vetted. The board and the community he said have some homework to do these next few weeks. The steering committee is meeting Wednesday to begin diving into the options presented.
School board president Andrew Caplan said there are a lot of people who thought the master plan would be done this spring and ready to bond by this fall. He asked for clarification on when decisions would be made on key issues.
“Talk a little bit about the timeline for some of the programmatic decisions. So, there's a lot of things that we’ve tabled so far,” Caplan said. “So, whether it's traffic, what our schools will look like from an environmental impact standpoint and our shared community values as well as things that are programming. There was overwhelming support for DLI (Dual Language Immersion) for that to remain untouched in the way that it's currently being offered.
Start times as a key touchpoint. Like when do we get to those types of issues in this process? So, what have you guys recommended as experts to address the key things that people in the community have told us they care about?”
Guarino thinks some of the decisions won’t be made for another year. He said there’s a certain amount of patience that is needed for both the school board and constituents.
“Once we get the cost estimates in front of you and let me stick with [Option] A and A is solidified and then OK now we need to get the feedback on the high schools and so forth,” Guarino explained. “I think you go and you get that second layer of conversation started and stimulated and as decisions are made when the Board maybe says OK, with one high school, let's put an expansion on it. Deal with cohort sizes. Then, I think you need to start looking at OK, whatever the traffic implications, what do start times do to those traffic implications and it’s again, it's peeling it back one at a time.”
Guarnino and his team are planning to return to the board with final recommendations, a master plan and facilities plan by the May 21st meeting. In the meantime, the district will be posting a survey and will hold a community forum to get feedback on the options. Those dates have not been announced.
No cost estimates will be provided until the district knows which direction it’s headed.