School boundaries approved amid controversy

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    By E. MARC STRYKER

    The Alpine School District Board of Education approved plans to modify existing boundaries for six Orem elementary schools Tuesday night, ending a struggle that had parents and educators worried about the quality of area education.

    The changes will take effect next school year and will affect 4,500 students.

    Superintendent Steven Baugh, defending the board’s somewhat controversial decision, said the struggle began when Orem residents told the board they needed another school to accommodate growth.

    “This superintendent believes in smaller schools. The people believe in smaller schools,” he said.

    The board’s decision indicated that redrawing the existing boundaries was the best way to fill the new Orem school between 600 and 400 North, relieve overcrowding and prepare for growth.

    The new boundaries would, among other things, require students from the eastern boundaries of Northridge Elementary, one of the area’s larger schools, to attend Orchard at the start of the next school year.

    Some Northridge parents were concerned for the safety of children crossing 1600 North to attend Orchard, and questioned the need for smaller schools.

    “Are smaller schools more valued than the safety of children?” Northridge parent Stephan Moran asked.

    Northridge parents also feared that their school, which has a reputation of having one of the best programs in the state, would suffer in the transition.

    Northridge parents stood as the vocal minority in opposing the boundary modifications, and accused the board of not wholly representing the majority of parents in the area.

    But others said the “silent majority” of parents from Orchard, Rocky Mountain, Windsor, and Sharon favored the proposal.

    Lisa Deason, an Orchard parent, said that Northridge parents’ opposition stemmed largely from fear of the unknown. She said parents were avoiding the real issue, which is to relieve overcrowding and plan for growth.

    Don Mullen, an Orchard parent, agreed. “This isn’t choosing what’s popular, this is choosing what’s right,” he said.

    Reaction Wednesday seemed to echo the board’s summation.

    “My personal opinion is that change can be good. A successful transition will be dependent on the parents, though,” said Lyn Denna, president of the Northridge PTA.

    Reed Hodson, assistant principal at Northridge, said, “If you take the whole scope of the seven schools, including the new school, I would think they did reflect the views of the majority. Did they reflect Northridge’s views? No”.

    Hodson said he was sad to lose the students on the east side but welcomed the Ribbonwood students affected by the decision.

    Rocky Mountain Elementary School principal Bruce Farrer said the board represented the majority view, although portions of the community opposed it.

    “Input and listening is different than agreeing,” he said.

    Muffet Reeves, principal of Sharon Elementary School said because the board listened to all of the opinions does not mean they must agree with them.

    “I believe that Alpine first and foremost cares about the students,” Reeves said.

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