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Eagle Mountain folks sounding off online
With no new school in the works, parents eye radical options

EAGLE MOUNTAIN -- Parents in Eagle Mountain aren't happy with the news that Alpine School District cannot provide a school in town as early as next fall.

According to online dialogue filed with the Eagle Mountain Web page, some parents are considering everything from secession from the Alpine School District to simply pulling their children and the tax dollars that go with them out of the district schools and making the district sorry."That isn't something that would create a serious situation," said Jack Reid, assistant superintendent for grades K-6 in the north county for Alpine School District.

"Obviously it would reduce our income, but it would reduce our costs, too. We wouldn't need as many teachers or paper or books."

Some parents are ready to start up a communitywide home school or a charter school.

Still others want to know more about enrolling their children into pricey private schools that range from $180 to more than $200 a month for tuition.

Reid said those interested in starting a charter school need to be aware that the process takes time and must be approved by the State Office of Education.

Home-school children must be on record with the school district so they are not considered truant. Private school and home-school students are then responsible to meet district graduation requirements before they can receive an equivalency certificate or diploma, he said.

Other parents have discussed creating a Lehi School District that would govern Eagle Mountain, Cedar Fort and Saratoga Springs.

Reid isn't certain the Utah Code allows for creation of a new school district by private individuals. "It seems very unlikely to happen," he said.

Ruth Brandt, a resident who has been very vocal about the need for a school in Eagle Mountain, advocates putting some pressure onto legislators and representatives who can instigate some type of voucher system for Utah families.

Vouchers would be issued to families who take their children out of the public school system and help pay for alternate education, giving credit to those families for their tax dollars.

Utah does not have such a system, although some states do.

Brandt plans on manning a booth at the upcoming Pony Express Days where she will collect input on options for an Eagle Mountain school. She'll then organize a kind of town meeting that would bring residents and pertinent officials together to discuss their options.

She's also advocating residents contact with state Rep. Dave Cox, state Sen. Robert Muhlstein, and Sen. Howard Stephenson, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

In the meantime, Reid said portable units are being hauled in to help carry the load at Meadow Elementary in Lehi, where the Eagle Mountain children will be bused for classes.

He said teachers will be hired based on the numbers registered and known to be planning to attend the school in the fall. He said the district knows of 180 Eagle Mountain children but expects that number to be larger.

Brandt's house-to-house survey showed the district can expect more than 300 children next fall just from the new west desert town.

Whatever the numbers turn out to be, Reid said the staffing ratio will be the same as if the school had 825 students. "We try to keep the ratio at 24-25 students in a classroom whether we have 1,125 students or 825."

One online reader said both of her second-grade children had nearly 40 children in their classrooms until the final few weeks of school.

Reid said the district is not unaware of the educational needs growing in Eagle Mountain.

"We recognize those children are our children and if growth continues, it's not a matter of if but a matter of when we build a school there. It's our obligation. We have to do something."