When the words written on the chalkboard by Karl G. Maeser in 1900 were later erased by a substitute teacher, Maeser Elementary School officials took steps to prevent history being lost again.
They encased Maeser's chalked words of wisdom in glass in the three other original classrooms of the school. Maeser had written maxims like "Man grows with his higher aims" to inspire young pupils.Now, with the school fast approaching its 100-year birthday and a bond election in the Provo School District about to ensure that a new school will be built to replace the old building, the question of preservation is being raised again.
"I love this school, and while I understand it can't be a school forever, I see its replacement as a mixed blessing," said Sharon Barker, who has taught at Maeser for 18 years. "What happens to the history when there's no longer a Maeser School?"
Superintendent Michael Jacobsen said the district will take great care with the disposition of Maeser, 150 S. 500 East. The historic facility was built for $8,661.45 and dedicated Nov. 9, 1898.
An ad hoc committee will probably be appointed on the heels of the bond election - if voters approve the bond, which includes money for a new west-side school and a replacement for Maeser.
Plans for the school include housing the adult and community education programs, the district offices or the transportation and maintenance division.
"It's still functional," Jacobsen said. "There are a number of things that make it behind the times as far as using it as school, the classrooms are too small, there are ADA and OSHA (Americans with Disabilities Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration) concerns.
"And personally, I don't like two-story buildings for elementary schools," he said. "Access is really the word for my concern."
At this point, Jacobsen said, the district is not under any kind of mandate to replace the school, but the Provo Board of Education feels the time has come to move on.
Barker said a few parents have registered their concern over earthquake and fire safety in the building.
Several years ago, district officials dropped the ceilings and replaced wooden wainscoting in the hallways to meet fire code re-quire-ments.
The building has been added to a couple of times, extending the capacity from 200 students and four teachers to 500 students today.
The "newer" section, built in 1939, consists of seven more rooms, the offices and a library. Entrances were remodeled inside and the wooden roof has been replaced with more fireproof material. The original brass doorknobs are gone, as are the transoms above the inside doors.
But the beams in the attic bear signatures of teachers and students who went to school in the 1800s. There's still room in the access tunnels to the boiler for someone like the "Phantom of the Opera" to move about without detection.
Beneath the carpets are hardwood floors. Steam radiators still bespeak another era.
The trees lining the grounds are each named for a president.
An acid wash done a couple of years ago brightened the brick. In the foyer is the bell carried from the old Webster School to the then-new Maeser Elementary.
And there's a school history containing promotion lists and records of day-to-day business and when teachers gave students shots. There are news clippings and receipts for the statuary in the hall done by artist Avard Fairbanks of the Pioneer and "The Original Inhabitant" or the Indian.
"There's so much heritage here," Barker said.
"While a new school will offer a lot, we want to be sure this goes to loving hands. The new school won't be Maeser, so where will all of this history go?"
Barker would love to see the new owner dedicate one of the classrooms to history, perhaps fixed up and restored to its original condition complete with the maple desks currently in storage in the basement.