A Provo woman contributed $25 Tuesday toward construction of a new alternative high school.

Now all the Provo School District has to do is raise $1,499,975 and overcome residents' concerns about placing the school in their west-side neighborhood.Superintendent Kay Laursen and Independence High School Principal Greg Hudnall are looking at five acres of district-owned property on 1100 West near 950 South as a site for the new school. They met with area residents Tuesday night to discuss the proposal.

"In our minds, this is probably the best one to recommend to the board," Laursen said. The school also owns 15 acres at approximately 2600 West and 250 South. Laursen said he will further study the plan and residents' concerns before making any recommendations to the school board.

The current facilities at Independence High School, 350 W. 500 South, are inadequate for its 300 students, Hudnall said. The school has one restroom. There is no hot water. Lunch is served on tables cleared of science experiments and sewing machines. The roof leaks, and the electrical wiring is poor.

Because of tight budgets, the district is organizing a fund-raising committee to get the new school built. Laursen said he already has commitments for some major donations. The facility also would be a community center.

Many of the 30 to 35 residents who attended the meeting were not pleased with the proposal. They raised concerns about increased traffic, lack of sidewalks and inadequate sewer systems. Others said they want to preserve the rural atmosphere of the area. Some perceive Independence High's students as undesirable to have in their neighborhood.

"I'm dead against it. I'm dead against Provo City crapping on this area," said Mark Bowden after the meeting. During the meeting, he said he didn't think it is right to "reward these kids" with a new school building. "Aren't you dumping one helluva lot of the city's problems in this area," he said.

Hudnall took Bowden's comments as an attack on his students. "My students aren't dredges," he said. And Laursen said the students are "human individuals with dignity" and the district has a responsibility to educate them.

Bowden conceded that his attitude could be changed by visiting the school, something that Hudnall urged him to do.

Teenagers attend the alternative school for a variety of reasons, truancy at mainstream high schools being chief among them. Hudnall said many of them just get lost in the regular school system. They come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Independence students are often labeled as "bad kids" because some might have long hair, dress differently or smoke cigarettes.

Rosa Clavijo, whose son attends the alternative school, tried to dispel that notion.

"I think you have the idea that 90 percent of these children are bad. No. Ninety percent of these children need help," she said.

The concerns about road, sidewalk and sewer improvements are ones the school district can't address directly. Laursen said he would meet with city officials to discuss those problems.

Residents said they would be more amenable to the school plan if the city made those improvements first.

Of the traffic issues Hudnall said, "I think their concerns are valid."


(Additional information)

New school - pro and con\ Of Provo School District's proposal to build a new alternative high school near 1100 W. 950 South. . . .

An area resident says: "I'm dead against it." Aren't you dumping a lot of the city's problems in this area?

A student's mother says: "I think you have the idea that 90 percent of these children are bad. No. Ninety percent of these children need help."