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South High School starts its second life March 26 when the old high school fills with students once again.

Salt Lake Community College, which bought the property after South closed three years ago, will welcome up to 2,000 spring-quarter students. Officially renamed the South City Campus, the school will have general and vocational education classes."That doesn't mean every course will be offered here, but there will be classes from all of the general categories," SLCC Academic Vice President Ann Erickson said.

Also located in the old South High will be the Skills Center, the short-term job training program for the disadvantaged.

College officials eventually expect a campus of 5,000 students.

For the past year, workers have readied the school for its first college students. They pumped new life into the old high school by bracing walls for earthquake safety, tearing out walls and redesigning inner space for faculty offices and student services, sprucing up classrooms and adding parking.

The college spent $13 million on South, including the $1 million that it gave to the Salt Lake School District for the building and property.

It wasn't enough. As the contractors and architects began the remodeling, they found that structural problems, particularly with seismic retrofitting and asbestos removal, were more costly than expected.

"There was asbestos everywhere, in the ceiling, in the floors, behind the lockers," explained L. Jay Williams, SLCC public relations director.

"It ate up all the money that we had," added Erickson.

The college's solution was to leave the building's third floor unfinished. It will not be used until SLCC can secure more remodeling money from the Legislature.

The new South looks essentially the same from its State Street entrance, but the interior design sports big changes, some more visible than others.

Air conditioning, a fire sprinkling system and a new electrical system were added. Every door was replaced to meet the fire code. For earthquake safety, walls were braced and tied to the roof.

"We might have some structural damage in a moderate earthquake, but from a life-safety standpoint, we're in good shape," said Bob Askerlund of the SLCC physical facilities department.

Over the years South was remodeled several times, producing a hodgepodge of halls and classrooms. To make more efficient use of space, walls were knocked down in some places and added in others.

A former student eatery and media center are now faculty offices and the students services area, including a lounge-study area. The former driver's education classroom was turned into the bookstore. An outdoor walkway that ran behind a former addition of the school was enclosed as an atrium.

Perhaps the most striking transformation is the old choir room. Now South's main lobby and entrance, the enlarged area opens out to a landscaped area containing student seats and a fountain donated by philanthropist O.C. Tanner.

A walkway goes to the paved parking lot with 613 stalls located where the South Cubs once played football.

The new lobby, as other remodeled areas, repeats terra cotta, archways, curved windows and scrolls used in the building's original decor. "We've tried very hard to keep the old decor. We hope people who went to high school here will think that it has the same ambience," Erickson said.

That effort extends to other areas. When the lockers were removed, the spaces were filled with brick that matches the original. When an elevator was added for handicapped access, the small addition was made to the front of the building. The addition's brick matches the exterior.

The school's auditorium underwent only minor changes. It will become the home of the Salt Lake Community Theatre, which opens in May with Robert Peterson in "Camelot."

The college has been renting the swimming pool.

When the students arrive in two weeks, some areas will still need finishing touches. The college plans a formal South open house May 10-11 to coincide with the inauguration of the new SLCC president, Frank W. Budd.