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PARTNERSHIP REACHES OUT, HANDS STUDENTS A SCHOOL

SHARE PARTNERSHIP REACHES OUT, HANDS STUDENTS A SCHOOL

Eleven-year-old Steven Barton loves basketball but says it's hard to get excited about the sport when his school's court is rundown and weedy and the net is rotting.

Barton's eyes about popped out of his head last week when he toured the shiny gymnasium at the new school he'll attend when classes begin next week. "This," he said, "is cool."Students from the rural communities of Halls Crossing, Ticaboo and Bullfrog will leave one-room school sites this fall to attend the new Lake Powell School in Bullfrog, a $2.5 million project funded by the National Park Service, two southern Utah school districts and ARAMARK Leisure Services, which operates all services at Lake Powell.

Toting books and supplies, teachers Thursday moved into the school that will house 42 K-12 students.

"This partnership is unique in the state, but it's unique in the country, too. I've never seen anything like it," said Kane County Superintendent Nils Bayles.

Students from Halls Crossing will take a 20-minute ferry ride across three miles of the huge lake to get to classes.

ARAMARK and the Park Service both have trouble hiring people with children because parents perceive the school system is spread out and underdeveloped, said Tom Willardson, business administrator for the Kane School District. With few children at each school, classes, services and facilities are limited, Bayles said.

"The Park Service needed it, we needed it, now we're looking to make the school the center of the community," Bayles said.

"This will be like a real school. We won't know what to do with ourselves," said Jessie Barton, who is Steven's mom and the English, business and home economics teacher for fourth- to 12th-graders. Tumbleweeds are taking over the yard at the trailer school where Barton has been teaching her son and a handful of other kids on the outskirts of the near-vacant community of Ticaboo.

On a tour of the new Lake Powell School, Bayles showed off the technology room, air conditioning, chalkless chalkboards and outlets that will link the school to EDNET, the state's closed-circuit microwave system that links remote areas to specialized classes offered elsewhere, thus bringing a world-class education to the isolated area.

"We call this our `Field of Dreams' school. If we build it, they will come," Bayles said. Pending development projects in San Juan, Kane and Garfield counties should eventually boost the school's numbers toward its 150 to 200 capacity.

The area is growing, but resort communities tend to attract a transient population. "We're hoping with a more permanent school, that will change," Bayles said.

Parents of Halls Crossing elementary school students have reservations about shipping out their youngsters on the ferry each morning. "We're used to having them close by. We're used to them coming home for lunch each day," said Julie Carothers, who has two sons - Cody, 14, and Brady, 9.

The school's mascot in the arid environment? The scorpion.

Fifteen-year-old Stefanie Biggs, whose dad is a ferry captain, said this is her only gripe with the new digs. "I'll always be a Halls Crossing Chief. I don't care if I do go to this school."