Officials award construction contract for new elementary school

BY LUKE VOELZ | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The plans for Iowa City’s future Norman Borlaug Elementary School are starting to take shape.

School Board administrators voted unanimously Tuesday to award construction of Norman Borlaug Elementary to City Construction. The Iowa City company submitted a bid of $10,595,000 on March 24, the lowest of the bids.

City Construction President John Tiemeyer said construction would begin within the next month and ideally be completed by June 2012.

Superintendent Steve Murley said the new school is being built largely to replace Roosevelt Elementary, which is set to close at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Roosevelt is an old school whose outdated structure made it difficult to add new technologies such as projectors and modern lighting, he said.

“With a new building, you have less of the constraints in structure and class size that an old school has,” he said. “That creates more opportunities from teacher and student learning perspectives.”

Borlaug Elementary will be 72,000 square feet with a capacity of 500 and a predicted enrollment of 380. Roosevelt had a 2010-2011 enrollment of 295, which exceeded capacity by 31.

Jeff Morris, a City High librarian teacher with daughters at Coralville and Northwest Junior High, said he hoped the School District could balance the potential for smaller class sizes with the costs of operating a larger school.

“Obviously, I would support anything that is going to lessen the classroom size and give kids more opportunities,” the 39-year-old said. “[But] they’re already talking about laying off some teachers and cutting different programs. I would like to see a balance. It’s great if you want to build this, but is there anything that you should support before building?”

District Director of Human Resources Jim Pedersen said the majority of the funding for the new elementary will come from the city’s 1-cent sales tax and Physical Plant and Equipment Levy funds.

The latter of these is separate from faculty and program funds in the School Board’s general budget.
However, Borlaug will be roughly twice the size of Roosevelt and require more faculty than the Roosevelt could supply. Murley said the district is looking at reorganizing faculty structures throughout the district and bringing faculty and students from other elementary schools to Borlaug.

“We’ll fill from within,” he said. “[Teachers] will follow the kids.”

The Roosevelt Elementary building and land was appraised by contractors at $770,000, a relatively low price that surprised board members.

“This doesn’t seem like what land sells for in Iowa City. Maybe in Cedar Rapids,” said board Vice President Mike Cooper, who said the district could use the property as a new preschool or Central Office location.

The Roosevelt property is also being considered as a reprieve for West High School, which is currently 60 students over maximum capacity. Board member Tuyet Dorau said she disliked the idea.

“If [the building] wasn’t good enough for elementary schoolers, it won’t be good enough for high schoolers,” she said.

The district, which is looking to have the property retained or on the market by fall, also has the options to retain the school or sell it to other contractors with or without conditions.

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