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School plan sparks dissent

BY CLARK CAHILL | FEBRUARY 25, 2009 7:39 AM

Frustration and confusion swept over the standing-room only crowd of community members during discussion Tuesday about what to do about Roosevelt Elementary.

The Iowa City School Board was met with strong opposition to its strategic facilities-improvement plan, which includes the possibility of relocating Roosevelt.

The board’s plan doesn’t set a final decision, but it gives the members a “working document” they can review annually, board member Gayle Klouda said.

“We are not saying by accepting the plan that we agree with the Roosevelt recommendation or any others in it,” she said.

District officials have garnered a lot of opposition since the presentation of the plan, which is a long-term proposal for development. The plan is composed of projects expected to individually cost more than $50,000 and set to be funded by money from the district’s school-infrastructure local-option sales tax.

Included in the plan is a proposal to build a new Roosevelt Elementary at the Crossings, a residential development near West High.

This move would affect where some students go to school by changing enrollment boundaries for Roosevelt, Horn, Kirkwood, and Weber children.

The plan would also build an addition to Horn Elementary, because its population would increase from 280 to 400 if Roosevelt were moved.

Those attending the meeting said the plan seems rushed; board members want to make a decision by March 24. Some think they won’t elicit enough community opinion.

“We have yet as a neighborhood to meet with anyone about our needs,” said Mary Knudson-Dion, who lives near Roosevelt. “For it to be a month away is so fast. We ask to postpone this and consider progressive thinking for this plan.”

A majority of the crowd members wore stickers on their chests that read, “We love our neighborhood schools.”

Ruth Baker, who passed out the stickers, said she wanted to ensure the board knew there was a lot of opposition to the plan.

While the board discussed the matter until almost 9 p.m., iterating that nothing is permanent yet, shouts and grumbling came from the restless crowd.

“Let the people speak,” one crowd member yelled. Another person screamed, “You’re ignoring us.”
Board President Toni Cilek said she was frustrated that people thought the board didn’t want community feedback — which was met with more disgruntled yells form the crowd.

Jennifer Kardos, a member of the Morningside-Wendale Neighborhood Association of parents from Hoover, Longfellow, and Mann Elementaries, thought the board’s approach to the plan without community input was odd.

“When I compare [the plan] with other opportunities that I have had to engage in conversation with public officials, there were a series of meetings that involved the public before there was a plan adopted,” she said.

Anne Bendixen, a Roosevelt parent, told the board although she hasn’t been satisfied with Roosevelt, she blamed the district’s neglect toward the school as the reason for its problems.

“I want you to acknowledge the district’s decisions led to this decline,” she said. “We have a chance to again make Roosevelt a school that we can be proud of.”

Officials will hold two public forums on March 2 and March 7 about the Roosevelt issue.


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