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Regents Approve Price Lab Demolition

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - State regents on Wednesday unanimously approved a University of Northern Iowa request to raze most of the Price Laboratory School building on the UNI campus, despite on ongoing legal fight about the school's closure.

The UNI plan will demolish about 70 percent of the building, leaving the field house portion and the west wing, part of which is being renovated to house the Child Development Center. Price Lab sits on the north edge of the UNI campus, with the oldest portion of the school built in 1953.

The school closed in June as part of UNI budget cuts, and the regents approved the closing last February.

A group of parents and educators fought to keep Price Lab open, filing a lawsuit last spring. A judge ruled against the group, siding with the regents. Supporters claimed the board overstepped its authority in voting to close the school, arguing the Price Lab facility was to be used as the site of the State Research and Development School established by lawmakers, and legislators didn't grant the regents the ability to close it.

Those parents and supporters filed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, and state lawyers recently asked the high court to throw out that suit.

Regent Bob Downer, an Iowa City attorney, asked what would happen if there is an ultimate determination that the lab school was not lawfully closed.

Michael Hager, UNI's vice president for administration and financial services, said university officials have visited with the attorney general's office and "at this time the court system has not prevented us from moving forward" with the demolition.

Downer also asked, based on a letter he received with the suggestion, whether UNI officials had contacted the Cedar Falls school district to see if they have interest in the school building.

Hager said he assumes Cedar Falls would have similar concerns that UNI officials have about the state of the building, which has $17 million in deferred maintenance needs.

The estimated cost of demolition is $500,000.

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