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Board mulls schools’ fates

Sale of Joaquin could net Provo district big $$$

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PROVO — Provo's Board of Education has entered the SCAMP labyrinth.

Recently, school board members and district employees discussed how to deal with two headaches: What to do with Joaquin and Maeser Elementary schools and how Provo's proposed student village will affect the future of the two.

The Joaquin school is on 500 North, the southern border of the area of Provo's South Campus Area Master Plan.

If the SCAMP project is given the green light by Provo City Council, the school will become an island in a sea of urban villages and massive housing complexes.

But land in that area is among the most expensive in Utah Valley. Cost for an acre is estimated at between $1 million and $1.5 million. A sale of the school could provide much-needed funds for the Provo School District.

If Joaquin is shut down, the students would likely be redirected to Maeser, seven blocks to the south. The problem is that Maeser is 102 years old and already scheduled for closure.

The building is in need of serious renovation, officials say.

Phil Lott, director of buildings, grounds and transportation for the school district, said he estimates renovation costs for Maeser at around $2 million.

Kevin Callahan, assistant director of Provo Community Development, asked board members to keep Joaquin open because it would draw families to the student-heavy area.

Board members discussed the option of leaving both schools open and renovating them. They talked about shutting down Joaquin, about renting out Maeser and about keeping both schools as is.

Lott recommends renovating Maeser and building an addition to the school, finally removing the mobile classrooms. He said if it's possible, keep both the schools and renovate Joaquin along with Maeser.

Most board members recognized the monetary potential Joaquin holds for the district. Board member Sandy Packard said when she heard what the price of land was in that area, she got dollar signs in her eyes.

Others feel Joaquin is too precious a commodity. Board member Mossi White said she thinks SCAMP is closer to 30 years off rather than the 10 the city is projecting — if the project is approved. She wants to keep Joaquin open and wait out the SCAMP craze.

"I think it would be very premature of us," she said about selling the property now. She told board members the land will be worth more 30 years down the road and that it's worth keeping.

There was a push to preserve Maeser's heritage to the city. Because of its age and architectural uniqueness, board members are interested in preserving the building and renovating it.

The school board will meet for a final study session at 5 p.m. before its regular 7 p.m. meeting on Aug. 14.

E-mail: rrogers@desnews.com