If a clearer picture could have been drawn to show the success of the Waterford Institute, the Provo school would not have to close its doors this June, the head of the school says.
But a lack of funds and denial of a proposed partnership with Provo School District have forced the institute to come up with another alternative - combine programs into Waterford's other school, in Sandy.Nancy Heuston said Waterford will withdraw from Provo "with great sadness" and combine with the existing school in Sandy, where students can pay the full tuition required to keep the school open.
"If a clearer picture would have been drawn by us, vision would have emerged for all participants so we could have (solved the problem)," she said. "It takes vision and commitment. Somehow if it was cast more clearly I believe everyone would have rolled up their sleeves and made it happen."
Hueston said school officials are not waving banners or pointing fingers, only wishing the school could have remained open.
Mark Robinson, attorney for the Provo School District, said, "We looked very long and hard at the problem to see if we could help them stay open, but the long and short of it is that Waterford needed more money than the district could afford to pay for the services they would give. The numbers wouldn't work out."
Waterford was interested in creating a partnership with Provo School District to utilize state funding allotted to public schools for each student. In exchange, the Provo district would purchase services from Waterford, such as teacher training to implement computer technology in the classroom.
"They were going to apply to the state to have their students listed as Provo School District students to receive funding, but the money we would pay would not create a partnership nor provide enough funding for those students," Robinson said. "The reason it couldn't work was because they were asking too much money for those services."
Waterford had estimated that receiving the weighted pupil unit - $1,260 - for each Waterford student - 331 in Provo and 248 in Sandy - would bring in $730,000.
The institute had proposed that $260,000 be retained by Provo School District to purchase computer hardware. Robinson said that meant Waterford needed $579,000 from the Provo district to keep the school open, and what Waterford planned to sell to the district didn't justify the cost.
The Waterford Institute, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1981. The school began with kindergarten through fifth-grade classes and now has nursery through 12th grade.
Waterford was set up as the WICAT Institute and serves as a laboratory school combining computers with liberal arts in the classroom.
Students also are given high expectations. "When a child is asked to advance to a certain level, he goes for it," Hueston said. The program was funded one-third by tuition, a third through WICAT Systems and a third through private contributions.
"WICAT is not in a position to support us, and I don't think Provo has the population to support a real tuition-paying school," Hueston said. "We have great hope that as the students go back (into public schools) they will have learned how to work and have a tremendous curiosity."
Almost 150 Waterford students likely will return to Provo Schools, 135 to Alpine School District and 16 to Nebo.
Kathy Luke, elementary education curriculum director for Provo schools, said: "We have tried to keep abreast with their technology and look at what they have learned with technology in the classroom. Funding has just been a problem for them. We don't want to say private schools don't have a place in our society. Waterford is a good institute."