Despite having deep roots near the heart of the Beehive State's answer to Silicon Valley, Utah County's Alpine District struggles to keep a technological edge.
But there's hope that a $6.9 million leeway initiative will put the district's 53 schools on the right track for the 21st century."We're in a crisis of sorts to bring technology up to the level of today's society," said David Walton, director of Alpine's technology department. "We're really optimistic the community will be supportive. We believe technology is a critical piece of education."
Voters will be asked to approve on June 23 the leeway and a $60 million bond issue for building new schools. The two initiatives will appear as separate issues on the ballot.
Although Alpine is the third-largest Utah school district, it receives the least money per student statewide because of a small tax base and a growing enrollment. That leads to funding shortages for things such as computers and Internet connections.
Individual schools have even turned to special fund-raising events to give their schools a technology boost. Hillcrest Elementary School in Orem will have a "Technology Vision Party" at 5 p.m. Thursday to benefit the school's computer lab.
The fund-raiser will feature a silent auction with items signed by Steve Young, Yogi Berra and Mohammed Ali. A dinner and dance also is planned.
Walton said there are several ways the money could be used to help students and teachers.
The leeway money would enable Walton and his staff to annually upgrade about a dozen 35-machine computer labs, add computers to nearly 500 classrooms and obtain software licenses for the new equipment for staff, teachers and students.
"That would be the largest piece of the leeway dedicated for technology," Walton said. "That way, each classroom, about every four years, would get a new computer, plus have older computers to work with."
The district also plans to spend $390,000 for Internet service and an inter-school connection. Another $350,000 is budgeted for teacher training on computers.
"We would like to provide about 10 hours of computer training per teacher per year," he said. "It may be a little more ambitious than what we can accomplish - given what teachers have to do - but we want to make sure teachers can make wonderful use of technology from the leeway."
Such funding packages traditionally have not fared well with Alpine residents, who voted down the last leeway in 1994. In 1992, however, residents gave a thumbs up to a $30 million bond issue and leeway.
Property taxes will increase $49.50 on a $100,000 house if the leeway passes by a majority vote. Combined, the two public-financing initiatives would add $63.50 per year in taxes for a house assessed at $100,000.
The leeway, an ongoing funding source matched by the state 40 cents for every 60 cents collected, would also pay for safety measures, literacy programs and class-size reductions.
Superintendent Steve Baugh urges public support of both proposals.
"It doesn't make sense to build new buildings if we can't operate them," he said.