The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind should be consolidated on the Ogden campus of the School for the Blind, the institutional council for the schools recommended Tuesday. The council met in the state Office of Education to make the long-awaited decision on the fate of the two schools.
A Johnny-come-lately proposal that both schools be moved to Salt Lake City from Ogden was not officially in the running among alternatives, but left lingering echoes. The Salt Lake option was not included in a study by Inter West consultants, and while it had some support among council members, did not get any votes because cost estimates were not solid.A Salt Lake location would put the schools closer to the majority of those served in the programs, proponents of that option said, and tie them more closely to adult services for the deaf and blind.
Moving the residential and program components of the School for the Deaf to the campus of the School for the Blind at 742 Harrison Blvd., Ogden, would cost an estimated $6.9 million.
The recommendation will go the state Board of Education Nov. 11 for its consideration. The board's decision will then be directed to the state's Division of Facilities Construction and Management. Council members said they hope to have an official position to a Legislative interim committee by December so the funding request could be considered by the Legislature during its winter session.
The consolidation issue has been more urgent because some buildings now on the campuses are out of compliance with fire and safety codes. Officials do not want to spend several hundred thousand dollars to bring them into compliance if money can be obtained to consolidate the schools at one site, said Superintendent Thomas Bannister.
He said Ogden officials had indicated they would not act on the code violations if a decision is reached about the future of the schools.
The council hopes to get the total $6.9 million from the Legislature to finance the total relocation, but will settle for a two-phase option to prepare the blind school to accommodate both programs.
The first phase, with an estimated cost of $4.7 million, would involve construction of new residential cottages, food-service building, new units for autistic and deaf children, a resource/media center and addition to the existing multipurpose building. The second phase would add outreach facilities, maintenance buildings and administration center and provide for renovation of existing buildings, at a cost of approximately $2.2 million.
Only one council member, Dennis Platt, voted to shift the services for both hearing and visually impaired students to the campus for the deaf, 846 20th St.
The blind school campus offers the greatest advantages for students, the majority of the council said. It is closer to Ogden City schools, an advantage for putting handicapped students into classes with non-handicapped peers when possible.