Salt Lake residents who believe a new school will hurt the architectural flavor of their neighborhood want Uintah Elementary School renovated, not replaced by a new structure.
About 20 residents, who call themselves Friends of Uintah, lobbied the Salt Lake Board of Education Tuesday night for a poll of the neighborhood before the board decides Uintah's fate."You can always tear down a school but you can't rebuild it," said spokeswoman Liz Crowder.
Karen Feinauer, chairwoman of the Uintah School Community Council, an organization of parents, teachers and school administrators, said she see no objection to a poll.
"We don't want any ill feelings," she said.
Crowder and several other neighbors of Uintah, 1227 S. 1500 East, told board members that the board has listened to only one side of the story - that of parents with children attending the 75-year-old school. Most of those who spoke indicated they don't have children at Uintah.
"The neighbors have been uniformly shocked at the possibility of tearing down the school," said Crowder. The majority of the neighbors haven't known until recently about the proposal to replace Uintah, several residents said.
"I'm surprised that you're surprised," responded board President Alan Mecham.
Board member Diane Barlow agreed, pointing out that the issue has received extensive publicity for months.
But neighbor Phil Snow said that until recently, only parents receiving the Uintah PTA newsletter were informed of the Uintah proposal.
Since last November, parents have pushed to fix Uintah, which has numerous safety, functional and seismic problems.
The board commissioned a $10,000 study of the building in an effort to determine its future, while at the same time correcting some of its immediate life-safety problems.
The consultants said Uintah could be preserved by gutting its interior and preserving the exterior at the cost of $4.7 million. Or the district could demolish Uintah and build a new school on the present school grounds at a cost of $4 million.
In February, the board held a public hearing at Uintah. Only one person backed renovation while parents, schoolchildren and teachers of Uintah favored construction of a new school.
The board has taken no formal vote on Uintah's fate. However, last month, when pushed by Uintah parent leaders, who have attended most board meetings for months, members individually said they would probably favor new construction. Last week, board members again, at a budget study session, said they wanted planning money for a Uintah proposal put in next year's budget.
Mecham told the neighbors that an irreversible decision has not been made. He suggested that additional opinion be gathered from the neighbors before the board adopts its budget in June.
Board member F. Keith Stepan cautioned the neighbors, however, that a poll would only result in a recommendation and would not constitute an election. The board makes the final decision based on what's best for the children, he said.