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Despite muddy shoes and biting cold, Larry Shumway couldn't keep the smile off his face recently while showing visitors around his new $2.1 million Mountain High School building, now under construction.

Shumway, principal of the Davis County alternative high school, proudly pointed out where the media center, classrooms, office space, kitchen and technology and domestic education areas were taking shape. Most important was the new central commons area that will serve as a place for students to hang out between classes.During construction, the commons area serves as a makeshift basketball court for workers on break.

Mountain High is currently shoehorned into 11 portable classrooms, and the students have no place to gather except on the street. In a school with an inherent image problem, Shumway said drivers going by seeing students lounging on the curb doesn't help public relations any.

The 22,000-square-foot building, located just to the north of the current portables and east of Davis High School, is scheduled for completion at the end of July, in time for the next school year. Construction began last September.

The district saved on construction costs by providing a "concourse" in the back of the building for additional classes, so named because it resembles an airport concourse. The long, narrow hallway has six openings where portable classrooms will be permanently attached.

"From the inside, you won't even be able to tell they're portables," Shumway said.

The new building is a far cry from the first Mountain High facility 25 years ago: the basement of a Kaysville home.

The program has expanded in other ways. The handful of alternative students attending Mountain High in the 1970s has grown to 350 enrolled students today. The Davis School District has also created an alternative junior high - Davis Junior High - and even an alternative elementary program at Hill Field Elementary.

Administrators say they have mixed feelings about expansion of the alternative program. On one hand, the program provides more help for troubled students, while on the other it indicates a deteriorating society.

Mountain High and other alternative programs around the state are structured differently from standard high schools. The students who attend such programs are those who failed in a regular school atmosphere, so Shumway and other administrators say they try to provide a more relaxed and congenial atmosphere in which students get emotional as well as intellectual support.

Nevertheless, the students don't get off easy. One of the most important things for them to do, Shumway said, is simply to attend - a typical failing for them in their home high schools. To that end, teachers strictly monitor attendance to the point where some students literally punch a time clock.

"Ninety percent of success is just showing up," Shumway said.