MURRAY — The "For Lease" sign in the window of the building was the first clue that there might be a problem at Utah Southvalley Community School at Woodland Hills.

"Right at the end of June, there was a lot of angst about the school no longer catering to the special-needs students," said Bob Jones, a developer who bought Woodland Hills, a private school, and then added a plan for a new school campus that would include athletics and activities ranging from drama to astronomy.

"I just said, 'Here, take it back.' I was trying to help, but it turned into a faction thing. I totally funded the whole school year, and I didn't want to keep paying for something I'm not associated with. It's gotten a little better lately. ... I think we're almost through with it. We're in the last throws of signing contracts and settling things."

Jones said he'd been meeting with teachers and administrators from Woodland Hills to decide how to officially break free from each other, and Jones said the division hasn't changed his plans for the remainder of the nearly 120 students.

"It doesn't change it at all," Jones said. "We're really, seriously a private school."

Jones said he's moving USC to West Jordan.

"It's a brand new building," he said of the site at 3895 W. 7800 South. "We even have our first home (football) game Sept. 5."

Several students at the school contacted the Deseret News and said that many teachers had been fired or quit because they hadn't been paid and they weren't sure the school was going to open this fall. One father said that in addition to the lease sign, all of the school's furniture was being sold in the parking lot.

"All of the good teachers are gone," said one parent, who preferred to remain anonymous. "It's just crazy."

Jones said rumors of the school's demise are wrong.

"I think that a lot of people want to believe that," he said, acknowledging that there were some financial issues but those have been resolved. "We had a little trouble with pay a little while ago. ... I've taken quite a beating. It's been quite an experience."

As for losing teachers, he said they let some teachers and one coach go, but the rest of the staff is returning.

"We're a private school and we expect a certain standard," he said. "All but one of the teachers we invited back said they would come back."

Former Skyline principal Steve Marsing, who was hired in the winter to be the principal, has left and Jones hired Mike Condie, who was already on staff, to be the new principal.

One parent said he was disappointed that Jones' promises to be at a site in Herriman didn't pan out.

"He made a lot of promises and they just never panned out," the man said.

Jones said he still intends to build a school in Herriman, but the process is slower than he expected.

"I've been very open with the parents," he said. "My personality is to throw it out there and see what happens. Some things didn't work out. We have a good solid core of kids and a good atmosphere."

Even the parents who left the school say their children benefited from the smaller class sizes at USC last year.

"We knew it was a risk when we decided to give it a try," said one dad. "The experience for our kids has been wonderful. ... My kids are devastated, but right now we're just looking at other options for our kids."

He said they'd even had phone calls from teachers telling the students goodbye and wishing them luck. He said the teachers said they hadn't been paid.

"It's hard for the kids because they really bonded with those teachers," he said. "It's just kind of a crazy situation. It doesn't sound like they're going to have a school to me."

Jones said that not only will classes begin next week, but he plans to take the football team to Japan this fall. He also said they will have at least one sport for girls and boys each sport season.

The Utah High School Activities Association confirmed that six male student-athletes from USC transferred to Jordan High and one female student-athlete transferred from USC to Murray High.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com