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July 30, 2004

2 charter schools relocate downtown

From: Salt Lake Tribune, UT - Jul 30, 2004

Old library building: The Leonardo Center houses the Salt Lake Arts Academy

By Mike Cronin
The Salt Lake Tribune

With the air hardly moving and cooking at 92 degrees, 13-year-old Tatiana Mixco was bored and hot.

I had nothing else to do, so I was like, why not? the Salt Lake City resident said on Thursday afternoon after hanging some shelves inside the empty hulk of The Leonardo Center - the new home for the Salt Lake Arts Academy and the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf.

Besides, if I didn't help, we wouldn't have a school ready to go to, Tatiana said.

She joined more than 20 other students and adults at the old Main Library on Library Square to shape what will become temporary digs for the two charter schools. Both expect to begin classes within a few weeks.

The academy, which serves fifth- through eighth-graders, and the school of the deaf will share the building until fund-raisers for The Leonardo Center collect $10 million, according to Mary Tull, center development director. Then, the schools will move. The school of the deaf will have to find a permanent new home, while the academy will eventually return to refurbished quarters at The Leonardo.

Reaching the $10 million milestone will trigger another $10 million in matching funds that Salt Lake City officials have promised for The Leonardo project. Then, a full-scale, 18-month renovation will begin, reopening by late 2005 or early 2006 with a group of new tenants, Tull said.

So far, Tull and her colleagues have about a third of the money in The Leonardo's coffers, she said.

The uncertainty over where the school of the deaf will end up no longer fazes those at Jean Massieu, said Joe Zeidner, school board member.

We've existed for six years and this is already our fifth move, so we're used to it, he said from Boston, where he is attending the Democratic National Convention.

The most recent home for the school of the deaf, which educates preschoolers through seventh-graders, was in Riverton's community center, now being renovated.

We're excited, Zeidner said. It's right next to green space. It's downtown. And it's a central location in the valley.

Briella Wilding-Diaz, 8, a Jean Massieu student, wonders what it will be like to be around all the academy's nondeaf art students. Briella attends classes with about 50 students.

It may be more noisy, said Briella, who is hard of hearing. But during recess, it should not be a problem," she said, speaking through a telephone-relay operator.

Briella has taken a watercolors class before and looks forward to taking another art class this year, she said.

Academy student Annie Brings, 13, of Salt Lake City, was so excited about the move to The Leonardo Center, that she clasped her hands together and hopped up and down while she spoke.

We'll have lots of space, said the young actress, after helping to set up one of the school's walls within the cavernous, concrete building.

We're used to being all crammed together at the academy's former location at St. Paul's Episcopal Church east of downtown Salt Lake City, she said.

The school for the deaf will occupy part of the first floor, while the arts academy, with more than 210 students expected, will take over parts of the first and second floors, and all of the third floor.

© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.