Deseret Morning News graphic

PLEASANT GROVE — The number of students in charter schools in northern Utah County has more than doubled this year, according to numbers released by the Alpine School District.

In the fall of 2005, 2,087 students attended charter schools in the Alpine District's boundaries. This fall, enrollment increased to 4,633 students.

That's still less than 10 percent of the Alpine District's enrollment among its 67 schools, which on Oct. 1 was 56,124 students.

Next year, the state has projected that 5,454 students will attend northern Utah County charter schools, when the school district projects its enrollment will be 58,727.

Jim Hansen, the school district's budget department director, explained the projections — which include an estimate of 69,294 students in the district by 2011— to the Board of Education at a Tuesday meeting at Pleasant Grove High School. Each November the school district releases a book of enrollment history and projections based on data from the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics and the Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The data are necessary "for where we're going to build schools, where we would make potential boundary adjustments, where we would add on to schools," Alpine Superintendent Vern Henshaw said.

School district officials have complained to local legislators about charter schools because they compete for the area's children and receive state money for every student enrolled.

But on Tuesday, they appeared content with the number of charter school students.

"Had we had no charter schools, we would have been over our projections?" school board member Donna Barnes asked.

"That's right," Hansen said.

Steve Whitehouse, the chief administrative officer of the Timpanogos Academy, a 475-student kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school in Lindon, said the school has surveyed parents yearly since opening in 2002 about why they chose Timpanogos.

"We have found the curriculum is the No. 1 reason why parents choose" Timpanogos Academy, Whitehouse said.

Other reasons are the school uniforms, the disciplined environment and the quality of the staff, Whitehouse said.

Alpine School District is the fastest growing in the state, according to the enrollment book.

Between 1990-2006, 17,271 new students entered Alpine schools. That's followed by the Jordan School District in Salt Lake County, which received 13,809 new students in that period, and the Washington School District in southern Utah, which received 11,088 new students.

Growth in Alpine School District is mostly attributed to new families moving to northern Utah County.

Previous enrollment growth has been about 3 percent. Future projections show growth at more than 4 percent each year, but Hansen warned district officials not to be surprised if actual growth is slower.

"That could be high," he said.


E-mail: [email protected]