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Officials in the Alpine School District are always looking for ways to get their schools a bigger piece of "pie." Enter the district's Partners in Education program.

The program, run under the auspices of the not-for-profit Alpine Foundation, allows businesses and individuals to donate their time and money to schools and individual classes, from kindergarten to high school. Gary Seastrand, Alpine's administrative assistant to the superintendent, said the program is thriving."It just keeps getting bigger and bigger," said Seastrand, who oversees the program for the Alpine Foundation. "Our ultimate goal is to have each school get at least two or three sponsors."

Most recently, First Security Bank "adopted" eight of the district's schools and 50 schools statewide. In other cases, the businesses or individuals have chosen to go smaller and "adopt" classrooms or programs. For instance, last year the Bank of American Fork adopted five district preschool programs - all of which have some special-needs children in them.

Under that arrangement, the bank made cash donations to all of the schools. Bank employees have also donated their time by giving volunteer services to the schools, including helping some of the children with early reading comprehension or by supervising play time.

"The preschools do not have enough money in the budget to support themselves, and serving these children is expensive," said Wayne Crabb, director of the district's preschool programs. "So the money the bank has donated to each school will buy equipment and supplies that we normally wouldn't have."

And business leaders said they've gotten as much out of the arrangement as the district and schools.

"It is a perfect way for us to express our appreciation for the support of the people toward the bank in these various communities," said Dale Gunther, president of the Bank of American Fork. "I have been especially impressed with the enthusiasm our employees have shown. Many of them have gone to a preschool several times and after the obligation is over they ask if they can continue this service."

District leaders considered starting a business-school partnership arrangement program after Geneva Steel adopted Geneva Elementary in Orem. Today, that eight-year partnership remains one of the district's best, Seastrand said.

According to Seastrand, the idea is gaining support across the nation.

"It's becoming a fairly large movement, nationally. And with the benefits for both sides, it's something this district has decided to concentrate a lot of time and effort on," he said.

For more information on the program or to volunteer time and/or money, contact Gary Seastrand at 756-8400.