PROVO -- Mark Steinagel is not given to nostalgia about a 101-year-old school that stands tall on a tree-lined block near downtown Provo.

Steinagel, a graduate student at Brigham Young University who lives across the street from Maeser Elementary School, didn't hesitate to sign a petition demanding the demolition of the building that is believed to be one of the oldest operating schools in Utah in favor of a new school."I'm all for keeping memories, but I feel like a new school would cost less and be modern," he said, cradling his 4-month-old daughter, Hanna, while watching children frolic on the playground.

"As a homeowner, I feel a new school would add to the property values in the neighborhood, too."

Provo School District's Board of Education will meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight behind closed doors at board headquarters, 280 W. 940 North, to discuss whether Maeser should be demolished for a new school at the current site or if another parcel of land should be bought for a replacement building.

Utah law allows the board to close the meeting to the public if members talk about how they plan to acquire property.

An open meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. to possibly vote on the future of Maeser, which was named in honor of an early Provo educator, German-born Karl G. Maeser. If the board votes to replace the school, Maeser students could be poring over textbooks in new classrooms by 2002.

Phil Lott, the district's facilities and transportation director, said the board's plans to build a new Maeser school has hit snags for three years.

In 1997, Provo patrons approved a $22.5 million bond-issuance proposal to replace the aging building that has several additions.

Negotiations with Provo city on several proposed sites has pushed back the time line to build the school, he said.

First, the city didn't want the school near Bicentennial Park and asked them to reconsider if city officials could find another site. Then, the county, city and the district continued to haggle over the price of the land where the old county jail used to stand.

For more than a year, officials have been negotiating a deal that would give part of the property to the district for a new elementary school in exchange for some cash and possibly the current school property.

The building and land was appraised last year at $1.8 million.

Lott didn't have an estimated price tag for the new Maeser school, which he said could start immediately after the board's decision.

"That depends on where the building will be built and if land needs to be bought," he said. "There's been a series of things that everyone has tried to find out (for the new site) -- if it is viable, safe for children and least expensive for taxpayers."

E-mail: jeffh@desnews.com