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Growing pains pinch district

Alpine board votes to alter boundaries for 3 high schools

AMERICAN FORK — Few people would doubt that both Lori Ross and JoDee Sundberg are truthful when they say they want what's best for children.

Their roles, however, make it difficult for the two women to find common ground in the debate over new boundaries at Lone Peak, American Fork and Pleasant Grove high schools.

Ross' role is a concerned mother. She worries about her daughter, who will attend American Fork instead of Lone Peak, where most of her friends from junior high will attend.

"She's devastated. She wants to move now," Ross said after Alpine's Board of Education voted to take a chunk of Pleasant Grove and move the student population to American Fork High School, which has dropped nearly 500 students since Lone Peak opened four years ago.

"And for my daughter," Ross said, "I would do that."

Sundberg's role is school board president. She worries about the Big Picture — making sure enrollments at all three schools remain steady so academic and athletic programs don't suffer at any of them.

If enrollment continued to drop at American Fork, programs would have been cut. And the board couldn't find the money in the budget to supplement the programs while students could be moved from Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove.

"I know each of the communities will come together to make three great schools," Sundberg said. "We may say goodbye to friends in one school, and new friends will be made at a new school."

Next year, only about 100 students in Pleasant Grove will be attending American Fork instead of Lone Peak or Pleasant Grove high schools. The board also will allow junior high students who had siblings at either Lone Peak or Pleasant Grove to opt to attend any of the three schools.

By 2004, though, board members predict the boundary alterations will cause enrollment at American Fork to stabilize at 1,500, Lone Peak will count 1,700 students, and Pleasant Grove will have 1,550.

The final decision was a tweaked version of an option given to the board by a 24-member boundary committee that was made up of eight representatives from each of the three schools. It drew mixed reactions.

At each public meeting to receive comment on the proposals, parents, students and leaders of local cities claimed that communities would be split and chances to play for athletic squads or participate in programs would be lost if changes were made.

A few also threatened to file lawsuits against the district if children were moved away from Pleasant Grove or Lone Peak.