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Article updated: 5/15/2012 5:27 AM

Tear down Coultrap building, Geneva school task force says

By Susan Sarkauskas

Coultrap Elementary School should be demolished, a Geneva school district task force reported Monday.

Renovating parts of it to move in the district's administrative staff doesn't make financial sense, several trustees said.

The task force -- which included the school superintendent, board President Mark Grosso, Trustee Tim Moran and facilities operations director Scott Ney -- presented four options to the board Monday night.

The first was to move offices into the first and second floors of the 1920s portion of the building; the second, to move offices into the first floor of the whole building; the third, to move offices into the first and second floors of the 1958/1973 additions; and the fourth, to demolish the building.

The committee said the building, particularly the exterior walls, needs repair if it were to be reoccupied, and renovation is needed to turn schoolrooms into offices. Costs to do that ranged from $2.17 million to $4.27 million, depending on the option.

The school, at 1113 Peyton St., opened in 1923 as the new Geneva High School. It was later renamed after longtime Geneva schools Superintendent Harry Coultrap. Additions were made in 1958 and 1973. The school became a junior high school, then an elementary school. In 2008 its students moved to the new Williamsburg Elementary School. Harrison Street Elementary moved in for one year while that school was being renovated.

Coultrap has been empty since spring 2009. The school board meets in the former cafetorium. "The part you are sitting in is probably the best part," Grosso said.

Sometimes Geneva High School sports teams use the gymnasium. The school is next door to Geneva High School.

Since at least 2006, district officials have contemplated tearing down at least part of Coultrap to make way for an expansion of the high school. But the district has postponed that indefinitely.

A 2011 facilities report said the building has problems with its mortar, leaks in its roofs, excessive mineral deposits in the 89-year-old plumbing, and cracked and falling plaster. Monday night, Nye reported it needed at least $1.2 million of repairs.

The board in 2008 decided not to tear down the original portion. Moran was one of those who favored emptying Fourth Street, which he felt was a more salable piece of property than Coultrap. He also thought it made more sense to have administrative offices close to the high school.

But Monday night, "I have come full circle on this," Moran said. He noted people are sentimental about Coultrap and that his two children attended it. "The fact remains, it is a dinosaur, it is in poor shape, and I don't think it is prudent to renovate a portion of this building," he said.

Trustees Mary Stith and Kelly Nowak asked that the Coultrap and Fourth Street buildings be appraised.

"I need to know if it (Coultrap) is of value to anybody else in the community, or what we would do with this property," Stith said.

The board plans to have a public forum on the matter but did not set a date for it.

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