Even if Peteetneet School falls prey to the bulldozer, it will die with dignity.
A group of 15 Payson residents has spent the past two weeks removing trash and broken glass from 20 classrooms and offices despite the building's uncertain future."The garbage was deep in every room," said Helen Scott, project organizer. "I went to school there. It was like seeing a part of my life disrespected."
The 87-year-old elementary school was closed last year after an engineer's report concluded the structure would not withstand an earthquake. Since it has been expensive to maintain the building and would be much more costly to bring it up to safety code, the Nebo School District decided to sell it, either to Payson city or to private business.
The land was appraised at about $75,000; the building was judged worthless because of the amount of renovation it would require.
Many residents want Payson to buy and preserve the historic school, or at least maintain the land as a park. Payson officials have negotiated with Nebo officials for the land but will wait until after elections to decide if they should make an offer. They say if the tax-limitation initiatives pass, they will need to cut spending rather than take on more responsibilities.
A citizens group hoping Payson will save the school, or at least the land, has sent out a survey asking residents their opinions on whether the building should be preserved; whether the building should be demolished and the land used as a park; if residents favor the city's trading land east of the high school to the Nebo School District as payment for the Peteetneet land; what uses residents would favor for use of the building or lot; and whether residents would support bonding to pay for restoration if the cost ran $45 per square foot, as predicted.
Survey results should be in by Nov. 15.
But Scott is not waiting.
"We felt like we had to do something," she said. "People were brought up in that building; they learned their values there. We didn't want to see a legacy destroyed. We have already restored some of the majesty."
The project will also benefit Payson's annual Scottish Festival, a proj-ect Scott organizes. In exchange for the cleanup, the Nebo School District has given her permission to auction anything she finds in the school to help fund the festival. The auction is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 12.
"There are some little desks, blackboards, some table and some books," she said. "The Scottish Festival charges no admission fee, so any money would help. We will be happy if the auction brings in $100, the district will have gotten a heck of a lot of work for $100."
Scott said she'll miss the school if it's demolished but will still feel good about having helped clean it.
"If something has to be buried, you don't do it in an old rug. You do it with dignity.
"The fate of the building has not yet been decided, but whatever her fate, we will know we have done our best."