The Utah State School Board approved a plan Friday that would consolidate the state schools for the deaf and blind on the present campus of the blind school in Ogden.
However, the action was taken only after a suggestion that both campuses be moved to Salt Lake City died a slow death.The consolidation issue has been under study for a year and did not include consideration of a Salt Lake location. However, that option has lurked in the background for the past few months, prompted by those who say the services for deaf and blind students should be relocated where the majority of the students live.
About seven-eighths of the students served in the residential facilities in Ogden reside in Salt Lake County or south. Earlier this month, the institutionalcouncil for the two schools struggled through the same dilemma, showing considerable support for the Salt Lake option. But the council was held up by a lack of firm details, including potential cost.
The state school board considered a motion that would have asked the Legislature for planning money based on the blind campus proposal, also allowing for additional study of the Salt Lake option. However, board member Neola Brown said such an action would only delay the matter that has already been under study for several years and that needs a firm commitment to move ahead.
On a close vote, board members agreed with Brown and voted in favor of the Ogden concept. The issues have been complicated by fire and safety code violations on both the Ogden campuses. Superintendent Tom Bannister said the costs of bringing buildings into compliance with current codes could cost more than $500,000 that could be better spent on the consolidation effort.
Ogden City has held enforcement in abeyance, awaiting the decision on consolidation.
A parent, Craig Edwards, chairman of the coalition of groups for the deaf, said the state is facing potential lawsuits for "deplorable conditions," particularly on the campus for the blind.
"I would sue the schools if I had a child on that campus," he said.
A petition was presented to the school board by some representatives of the deaf community opposing closure of the deaf school and relocation to the blind campus.
Consolidating both programs on the blind campus will cost an estimated $6.9 million, Bannister said. The Legislature will be asked to provide $30,000 next year for architectural planning. The actual construction and renovation costs could be divided over the next few years, although the state board would prefer that the entire $6.9 million be made available at the outset. The board will ask the 1990 Legislature for the money.
The plans call for demolition of some buildings and construction of new classrooms and support service facilities, as well as cottage-type residential units.