Two LDS values-based private schools closed their doors in December. Next week, Mount Hyrum Academy is scheduled to open and take their place.
When the new South Jordan school starts Jan. 10, it will have gone from the drawing board to chalkboards within a matter of weeks.
“We’re not 100 percent up and ready,” said Rory Adams, an administrator with the academy. “We’ve got a week to go. We’ll be ready.”
The December closures of Deseret Academy and Mountain Heritage Academy, both private schools in Salt Lake County, brought into question whether LDS values-based private schools could survive. But founders of the new school for preschoolers through 12th-graders say they know what doomed their predecessors and they know how to avoid it.
The other schools, Adams said, relied too heavily on donations. Mount Hyrum Academy, in contrast, will operate on tuition.
“If everyone pays their school fees, the school will survive,” Adams said Monday. “The tuition is going to cover all our overhead.”
So higher enrollment will mean lower tuition, he said. For instance, if 50 students sign up, the cost will be $876 a month. If 200 enroll, the monthly bill will fall to $353.
While all three schools are based on LDS values, none is sanctioned or endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Adams acknowledged that Mount Hyrum faces a public relations problem. Some parents, he said, feel betrayed by the closed schools after they learned they would have just days to find new schools for their children. Some Deseret Academy parents enrolled their children in Mountain Heritage for only 10 days before that school shut down.
Francine Giane, director of Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection, said there is little oversight of private schools. And her office has no authority to investigate them.
“Personally, I would look at the track record of those people involved before I put any money toward the school,” Giane said. “They are, by and large, not regulated.”
Adams said he was a co-founder of Mountain Heritage Academy but left the finances to another partner. His wife, Charne Adams, was a teacher at Deseret Academy and will serve as an administrator at Mount Hyrum.
LDS author Blaine M. Yorgason has lent some finances and his name to the school-in-waiting.
“I was just gravely disappointed when the schools disintegrated around [the Adamses] and their children,” Yorgason said. “I hope my name is good for something.”
Mount Hyrum Academy is set up as a for-profit company but investors have vowed to reinvest any earnings during the first five years of the school.
The school also is soliciting donations through The Latter-day Foundation for the Arts, Education and Humanity.
Those donations will be used to buy a building for the school.
For now, the school is scheduled to operate out of the closed South Jordan Elementary School at 10600 S. 1300 West. Academy officials are registering students today starting at 10 a.m. at the school.
Officials also will be meeting with South Jordan city leaders today to obtain a business license.