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SALT center to get new facility

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 5, 1999
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The SALT Center for Learning Disabilities next summer will begin construction on a new $2.7 million facility to keep up with an expanding need for student services.

The Arizona Board of Regents swiftly passed a proposal last Friday which allows SALT to begin construction of an expansive new center on the northeast corner of North Highland Avenue and East Second Street.

The 16,000 square-foot facility would replace the Old Main offices, 1200 E. University Blvd., that the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques center has now outgrown.

"We have 20 staff and 2,500 square feet of space, about the size of a typical house," said Diane Perreira, SALT's director. "We do a very good job with our students but we are sure we can do better (with the benefit of more room)."

She said the center's services will be expanded with the addition of more tutoring programs and the creation of a disability research center in the new facility. Tutoring is currently conducted on the patio of Old Main or off-site.

"People cram in here. It's such a small, tight space," said Kathleen Fay, a psychology junior involved in the program.

With a new building and six times more space, the facility will offer a more conducive learning environment for students, said Education Specialist Caroline Ragano.

The SALT center now serves approximately 500 students, and projected figures place student participation at about 650 within the next five years. A larger building would become necessary to accommodate the growing student body.

Along with the addition of students, a staff increase would follow, improving the staff/student ratio for greater interaction. Learning disability-related research could also be initiated at the facility for the benefit of SALT students and others.

The new SALT center has been in the works since 1994 when the Regents granted the request to proceed with detailed planning. Six years later, the plans are ready for the next step.

About $2 million have already been raised through gifts, Perreira said. The successful fundraising and pronounced need for more space moved the new SALT center up the priority list for the university's FY-2000 Capital Improvement Plan, she said.

Construction is slated to begin in July 2000, by which time the remaining $500,000 should be collected. By September 2001, the new SALT complex should be functional.

"I am going to miss Old Main because there's a lot of history here," said Education Specialist Caroline Ragano. "But we get to create our own history in the new building and I'm glad that I'm a part of it."