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Taking a peek at options for Maeser school

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PROVO — One of Brenda Cottle's responsibilities as Maeser Elementary School PTA president is to help decide the future of the 101-year-old school.

Why? Provo's School District will move students to a new school in the Ironton area next year — and the district and community have been at odds about what to do with the historic building when it becomes vacant.

Cottle didn't find many surprises as she toured Maeser Elementary Wednesday with 15 other committee members who will help her decide Maeser's fate.

Not much raised her eyebrows except the old-fashioned urinals in the bathrooms.

"They don't flush?" Cottle asked Phil Lott, Provo School District physical maintenance director. Lott explained the urinals are more sanitary than toilets that flush with water.

"That just doesn't make much sense to me," Cottle said with a laugh. "I guess I'm from the old school. It seems you need water to keep things clean."

Cottle wasn't too concerned, though. After all, her two boys who attend the school have been taught to wash their hands.

Besides, she had more important things on her mind.

Like what to do with a school that has become a Provo landmark but no longer meets the education needs of her children.

In the next several months Cottle will help make that decision with 14 other committee members from the Provo School District, local PTA and the Maeser neighborhood.

Essentially, there are two options for the building, said Greg Hudnall, Provo's director of student services.

The committee can recommend that the district move different programs into the building or that the district sell Maeser Elementary. It would be too expensive to move the district offices to Maeser or to tear it down, Hudnall said.

The purpose of Wednesday's tour was to show the school to committee members who had never visited it, Hudnall said.

"It gives committee members a point of reference so that when we begin to talk about putting certain programs upstairs or moving an office into a classroom they will know what we're talking about."

Maeser Principal Dale Porter took the committee everywhere in the school —down a spiral staircase to the basement and up creaky stairs to the attic.

The committee will meet on the second and fourth Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. each month. Hudnall hopes the committee can have a proposal prepared by December and make a presentation to the school board next April.

"We want to do what's best for Maeser and what's best for the neighborhood. I think this committee can do that," Hudnall said.

The committee has representatives from seven different areas in the Maeser neighborhood. Hudnall said some of these representatives will want to keep the building and some will want to sell it.

Whatever decision the committee makes, Hudnall, who also sits on the Provo City Council, is sure it will make the right one.

"In all my years in city council meetings and school district meetings I've never seen a better process than this one," Hudnall said. "The way this has been handled shows a real commitment to do the right thing by the school board and superintendent."

Cottle, for one, would like to convert the school into a community center. She says the school is obsolete and that her kids are missing out. But she's not too worried about those urinals, as long as her kids keep washing their hands.

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com