Roosevelt school will officially close

BY DAVID GREEN | JUNE 10, 2009 7:28 AM

Roosevelt Elementary students will attend new schools next year, and many in the community are unhappy about it.

The Iowa City School Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to close Roosevelt — which officials said is overcrowded and the Iowa Department of Education has identified as having “racially and socioeconomically isolated” enrollment patterns — after months of heated discourse.

President Toni Cilek said that in her seven years’ experience on the board, Tuesday’s vote was the “hardest decision yet.”

Many community members left disappointed. Anna Buss, a landlord in the Roosevelt area, said some of her tenants are parents who live there specifically because of Roosevelt.

“I don’t think [the School Board] listened to anybody,” she said.

Other residents believe the board did not fully consider the cultural and community benefits of close, small neighborhood schools. The board plans to build a new elementary school at the Crossings residential development, near West High. It also means boundary changes at Horn, Weber, and Kirkwood Elementary Schools.

Originally, a deliberation process generated nine different plans, including alternatives that involved renovating and building additions to Roosevelt Elementary and keeping it open.

Eric Gidal, UI associate professor of English, said neglecting schools in the center of the district in favor of new ones on the periphery is “bad city planning.” Before the vote, he said the board needs to recognize schools are “more than facilities where you distribute resources.”

But board members said they prioritized problems with the facilities in their considerations.

According to the district Strategic Facilities Improvement Plan, created for planning facilities and projects over the next 10 years, officials reported it would cost $5.1 million to repair and add to Roosevelt Elementary — one of the oldest schools in the area. That’s nearly half of the estimated cost to build a new school.” In the winter, some classrooms are cold, and at the same time some have their windows open,” board member Gayle Klouda said. “There are issues with the building that renovations can’t alter.”

Klouda said she sees the value in close neighborhood schools but said the new school at Crossing, three miles from Roosevelt, can still be considered to be one.

Officials called for a community task force to explore how to best deal with the Roosevelt site, part of a last-minute amendment School Board member Mike Cooper brought forth.

Correction: In the June 10 article “Roosevelt school will officially close” the DI incorrectly reported students will attend new schools next year. The Board did not vote to immediately close Roosevelt Elementary . The DI regrets the error.

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