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BOUNDARIES, FUNDING DIVIDE 2 DISTRICTS

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In four months the Duchesne County School Board will have to inform the Uintah School Board whether Uintah County students can keep crossing district boundaries to attend East Elementary and Roosevelt Middle and Junior High schools.

Before the March 1995 deadline, the two boards will attempt to hammer out a solution. Duchesne officials complain that three Roosevelt schools suffer from overcrowding and underfunding due to the influx of Uintah County students.Ninety-eight Uintah County students attend school in Roosevelt and 20 in Neola. The Duchesne School District receives just $105 for each pupil from the Uintah School District to educate those students. Duchesne also receives more than $1,000 in state weighted pupil unit funding for each Uintah County student. The actual cost of educating one child runs approximately $3,600.

"It's a formula worked out by the state, but by the time you go through it, it's insignificant," said Duchesne District Superintendent John Aland.

Uintah County students who attend Union High School will not be affected at this time by the boundary discussions because of a contract between the school districts.

By law, students in Utah can cross school district boundary lines to attend the school of their choice, unless enrollment at the school is already at 90 percent capacity. Right now that's the situation in Roosevelt, say Duchesne board members.

The county boundary is just east of the town of Roosevelt - actually running right through Union High School. Most of the students attending Roosevelt elementary and junior high schools live in the outskirts of Roosevelt and travel a couple of minutes to get to those schools, compared to approximately a 10-minute trip to Uintah District schools in the Fort Duchesne area. Some have older siblings attending Union High.

But Duchesne School Board member Dave Labrum said that's not the real issue. He noted that the Uintah County schools the students would attend have a large American Indian enrollment.

Labrum told the Uintah Board it's time racial tensions associated with west-side school attendance were discussed. "How we face it as a community and how we solve it is going to determine what kind of people we are," he said. "Somehow we need to get it on the table that it's not just a one-race issue. It's uncomfortable I know, but that's the real issue, and we skirt it."

Labrum spoke of the need to work together to erase racial tensions in the schools while children are young. "Whites aren't comfortable with the large Native American population at Todd and West. Then the Native Americans come to Union after they are used to being the majority. When they aren't anymore, they feel uncomfortable.

"It's a real issue in our area," he told the Uintah Board. "It's not an issue for you who live in Vernal. Somehow we've got to get our cultures more comfortable. We've got to get these issues on the table. That's the issue we've got to deal with - how to get Native Americans and non-Native Americans to get along in the schools."

The two boards met in a work session in Roosevelt to begin discussions and review a preliminary list of suggested solutions concerning the boundary issue.

Alternatives being considered include busing students, reorganizing grades, putting a cap on the number of Uintah students allowed, or simply turning away all Uintah students from the three Roosevelt schools.

Uintah Superintendent Grant Drol-lin-ger said he'd like to have Uintah County elementary and junior high students attend school in their own county.

"Maybe the only solution is that you don't accept them. How would you feel about not taking any Uintah County students?" Drollinger asked.

He said that if Duchesne turned Uintah students away, the Uintah School District would be able to fill its buildings and improve programs.

But Duchesne board members pointed out that west-side Uintah County residents are considered members of the Roosevelt community, and that emotions among parents run high when it comes to talk of sending their children to west-side Uintah County schools.

"We've talked about it, and it would seem like a real logical thing to do," said Duchesne Board member Mel Tanner, "but you've got to consider the feelings of those people there."

The Union High attendance contract between the two counties was also discussed. The agreement, which pays Duchesne County School District for each Uintah County resident attending Union, doesn't expire until 2001. But when it does, Duchesne board members said they won't sign any renewal contract until they see increased funding.

Currently, 250 to 260 Uintah County students attend Union.