A new integration program for mentally handicapped students at Geneva Elementary School is being praised by parents and educators, but some say Alpine School District officials resisted demands to start the program and aren't fully supporting.

The new class at Geneva includes three boys, 7 to 11 years old, who spend part of their day working on basic skills and the other part developing social skills by interacting with non-handicapped students.The boys' teacher, Cheri Lea, was hired by the district several months ago to teach the class, which was started in mid-January. Parents say they are pleased with the program's progress but worry about district officials' attitudes, because, they say, similar programs should be in place at more Alpine schools.

Andrea Forsyth, whose 11-year-old son Dustin is attending the class, said she does not believe the Geneva program would exist now if she had not demanded it be started.

"If I hadn't gotten on the telephone every night for weeks and insisted, it still wouldn't be done," Forsyth said.

Many handicapped students who live within Alpine's boundaries attend Dan Peterson School for the Handicapped. Forsyth's own child was a student there for six years, and she said he learned a great deal there, but his greatest need was to learn appropriate social behavior, and that had to happen among non-handicapped children.

Brian Page, who has been Alpine's assistant superintendent of instructional services for two years, agrees that not all handicapped students belong in a school like Peterson. The district, he said, may have resisted attempts to modernize its approach to handicapped education, but things are changing.

Alpine will watch the Geneva program carefully, as well as a handicapped transitional kindergarten at Hillcrest Elementary, and base future changes on what is learned, Page said.