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Iowa City parents petition for new elementary school

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MARCH 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa City School District parents are petitioning for a new East Side elementary school instead of a fourth high school in the immediate future.

Parents who support the petition said the growing elementary-school enrollment, combined with a lack of schools on the East Side, makes a new school a good option.

According to a district 2011-12 enrollment report, schools have had an increase of approximately 440 students this school year — 350 students more than initial estimates.

"Just recently, more information has come up about redistricting in Iowa City," said district parent Dan Shaw, who wrote the petition. "We're starting to get a clear look at the capacity issues in the elementary schools. I think we really started to see the need for a solution."

The petition calls for the district to put part of the $17 million raised through school-infrastructure local-option funding into the proposed elementary school alongside general maintenance and upkeep districtwide. Building a fourth high school, its proponents argue, would wipe out all that funding before a projected $32 million increase over the next five years.

"I think to me it's a question of timing in many ways," Shaw said. "The triggers that the School Board has established to build a new high school will not hit until 2017, whereas the elementary schools have already hit capacities."

West High is running 62 students over capacity; City High has approximately 200 open seats.

However, district officials have said residents should not take a stance on new buildings until the district receives updated enrollment statistics from the University of Iowa Geography Department in April.

"A key part of the dialogue surrounding this issue are the perceptions about which of these is more immediate," Superintendent Steve Murley wrote in an email. "These decisions are best based on up-to-date data."

School Board members have also discussed the possibility of building an elementary school on the East Side.

"I'm thinking that it may not be a bad idea," said School Board member Karla Cook. "[An elementary school] instead of a high school — I'm not sure about that. I don't think those two cancel each other out."

The School Board will hold further discussion of building an elementary school after the enrollment information is released.

Another district parent said East Side students have been under-represented in past school developments.

"They've built the last three to four elementary schools on [the West Side]," district parent and one-time School Board candidate Julie VanDyke said. "[People in support of a new high school] are trying to say that the growth in population is on that side, but the growth will be wherever you put a school. The east elementary schools are out of seats, and yet there are 200 open seats at City High — why would we build a new high school?"


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