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Coultrap vote set for Monday

GENEVA – Geneva District 304 officials are scheduled to vote Monday on whether to demolish its Coultrap facility or spend money on it for another use.

After a forum presentation two weeks ago, it appears keeping Coultrap for any purpose would be too expensive for the district.

Renovation and repair estimates were $2.3 million to $4.3 million as opposed to razing the building at a cost of $862,000. It costs $69,000 a year to operate the building minimally. The Coultrap building was last used for classes in 2009.

The district would not sell the property because the high school is landlocked, and the area might be necessary for future expansion needs, officials said.

Several residents opposed the possible demolition, among them Carolyn Givens, who sought city council support this week.

"I hear the school district wants to tear down a 90-year-old school building," Givens told aldermen. "I'm appalled, frankly. … My son went to school there four years ago. I was told it was perfectly safe, perfectly fine four years ago, and now the school is a piece of trash."

Givens said students from Harrison Street Elementary School attended Coultrap during the 2008-09 school year while their school was being renovated and while Coultrap students moved to a new school, Williamsburg, that year.

"Harrison Elementary – it was decided that was worthy of remodeling," Givens said. "Fourth Street … is an old building that was worthy of being rebuilt."

The former Fourth Street school, built in 1916, was closed in 1994 but now serves as the district's central office. Harrison was built in 1929 and is still in use as an elementary school.

Givens criticized the district's facility report on Coultrap, saying it did not include the option of demolishing just the additions – built in the 1950s and 1970s – and keeping the oldest part of the school.

"Tell the school district you want more studies," Givens urged aldermen. "And that includes saving the old part of the school and demolishing the new additions."

But city officials said they did not have jurisdiction over the school district. Mayor Kevin Burns said the city never interjects itself into other governing bodies' deliberations when it comes to real estate.

However, Burns said the city offered the district the aid of its community development and  historic preservation staff, to provide insight, information and counsel, with regard to Coultrap.

"All we can do is offer cooperation," Burns said. "Whatever they needed to study, the very issue of either saving, and/or renovating and/or razing Coultrap Elementary School."
Burns said his three daughters attended Coultrap, and he has fond memories of walking them to school.

"But the ultimate determination rests with the elected board at the school district," Burns said.

School board President Mark Grosso said he would not comment about Coultrap until Monday's school board meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Coultrap, 1113 Peyton St.

Givens said she plans to speak to the school board about saving Coultrap.

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