Stoker School, once so riddled with fire-code violations that the state fire marshal ordered it closed, is now among the safest school buildings in the state.
The city, using a $110,000 appropriation from the Legislature, has remodeled most of the 89-year-old school, installing a new fire-alarm system with heat and smoke detectors.The work comes after a Deseret News investigation in 1991 revealed the fire-code violations had been ignored for 18 years. Some were so serious that the fire marshal ordered the building evacuated and closed in 1986 until repairs could be completed.
But that order, along with several letters from the marshal dating to 1973, had been ignored by building owners.
"They're not ignored now," said Paul Rowland, assistant city engineer. "The work that's been done will make this building safe and usable well into the future."
Besides the installation of the new fire-alarm system, the city has also:
- Replaced about 50 wood doors with fire-rated doors. All of the doors are handicapped-accessible and would seal smoke inside a classroom.
- Moved, replaced or added several walls, including the enclosure of stairwells that fire officials believed would act like "funnels of flame and smoke" if a fire ever broke out.
- Replaced celotex ceiling panels in hallways and open spaces with fire-rated panels.
- Coated wood wainscots in hallways with a fire-retardant paint.
- Replaced large window frames and windows facing a fire escape with fire-rated windows.
- Replaced dozens of glass transoms above classroom doors with fire-rated glass.
New carpet and paint covers the building's hallways and office space. It was purchased by the University of Utah, which has leased Stoker since about 1982 for its Continuing Education program.
"I feel really good about the work that has been done there. It's a good example of cooperation among public agencies to make something happen," said John Elder, deputy state fire marshal. Elder said his office has not inspected the school since the work was completed but feels "confident" that Stoker is among the safest schools in the state.
The city's own fire marshal inspected Stoker last month and found only minor infractions. "They need to install three exit signs. I understand they have just about completed that," said Michael Barfuss, Bountiful fire marshal.
A long history
Stoker School, built on the foundation of the old red-brick Central School, was completed in 1904. It stands on property once owned by David Stoker, the son of John Stoker, whose name it bears. The two-story school served grades K-8 while high school students used the basement. Leo J. Muir was the first principal. David Tolman followed, serving in that position for 41 years. Thousands of children attended the school until 1981, when Davis School District closed it. The district then began leasing it to the University of Utah for its Division of Continuing Education. In 1986, Bountiful City bought the building for $550,000.