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Officials clarify possible Hills Elementary closure

BY GRACE GATHUA | JANUARY 24, 2011 7:10 AM

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Though a review of Iowa City elementary schools could lead to discussion of closing Hills Elementary in the future, district officials emphasized there are no immediate plans to shut down the school.

Michael Shaw, an Iowa City School Board member, said the board is asking administrators to compile criteria that will determine the viability of each elementary school.

Areas officials will examine many topics, including building costs, personnel costs, and utilities, said district Superintendent Steve Murley. The board will review information about all the schools to compare the operational costs.

Reviewing the schools’ viability has been a yearlong discussion in the district, Murley said, because some of the older schools cost more money.

“It’s not just about Hills Elementary,” he added.

The School Board will continue the discussion at its meeting Tuesday, and talks will concern all 19 elementary schools, not Hills specifically.

But Hills — which is roughly 10 miles away from Iowa City — has the smallest enrollment in the district, and it is declining.

This year, the school has an enrollment of 98, down from 126 last year, according to district enrollment reports. The school was designed to accommodate 300 students.

Discussions on whether to keep Hills open are ongoing, and the board does not know when a final decision will be made.

“No decision has been made on whether or not close Hills Elementary,” Shaw said.

Throughout discussions, Murley said, officials will consider where the students will be five to 10 years, not just in their elementary years.

Heather Stevens, the vice president of the Hills Parent-Teacher Organization, said — while the organizaiton has not discussed the possibility — if Hills closed, the result would be most likely be a redistricting of the area, possibly moving students to Iowa City schools.

This will be the case for students after the closing of Roosevelt Elementary this year.

For now, the board is still deciding what action to take.

“No plans as of yet; they are far away from that point, because no decision has been made,” Murley said.

Though Murley said rumors of Hills’ closing have understandably stirred concern among parents, it’s been an ongoing issue since he became superintendent last year.

The board is expected to look at the issue continuously, he said, because it’s never going to go away completely.

“It’s not a case of saving a school,” Murley said. “It’s looking at long-term viability.”


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