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Iowa City School District moves industrial technology programs

BY ELDON GIANNAKOUROS | MARCH 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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A transitional phase has taken Iowa City School District technology programs away from the City High base and moved them to the district's physical plant and Southeast Junior High.

Superintendent Steve Murley said the move is a temporary arrangement ahead of the 2014 completion of a regional Kirkwood Community College facility for southeastern Iowa high-school students.

"One of the things we struggle with is low-enrollment courses. We're not able to offer a larger variety of classes in those areas because numbers are so low," he said. "By being able to pool high-school students from across the area, we're hoping to strengthen those class offerings by increasing our enrollment numbers."

The first day of classes at the physical plant, 1137 S. Riverside Drive, began two weeks ago.

District parent Phil Hemingway expressed concern that the plan would discourage students without driver's licenses from taking such classes.

District officials have offered to bus students who cannot drive themselves to the new locations, but Hemingway said that won't be enough to overcome the inconvenience of traveling off-site to attend these classes.

"That's the first step in cutting the numbers down, so it'll be easy for them to cut the program two or three years down the road because the numbers don't support it," he said.

School Board member Sarah Swisher said Hemingway's comments were unfounded in light of the coming transition to Kirkwood.

"I don't think we've ended or planned to end our vocational-education program," she said. "In fact, we plan to expand it."

The district discontinued its student house project in 2010 because of a lack of funds, which Hemingway said indicates the district does not intend to expand technology education at City High.

"In no way, shape, or form can you say that that's true when the home-building program was done away with two years ago," he said, "Board members can't say they are expanding the curriculum now; the facts just don't support it."

Yet City High auto-shop teacher Dave Raaf said he hasn't seen any attendance drop in auto-shop classes. He is hopeful the move to Kirkwood will breathe new life into the program and provide students with opportunities they haven't had in the past.

"In the long term, I think it's going to be very positive for the students in our region," Raaf said.

Iowa City West Principal Jerry Arganbright said he hasn't received any complaints from parents or staff members regarding the change. A relatively small number of students take shop classes at West High, and they were already commuting to City High before the most recent changes to the program, he noted.

"Fewer than half a dozen kids are involved in the auto-tech program, which is one of the tech programs that they are moving," he said. "Those kids provide their own transportation, so it hasn't been a problem."

Murley acknowledged moving the programs off-site might provide challenges to City High students but said the physical-plant location will make the classes more accessible to students at West and Tate.

"Part of this process also increases access to students in the district when you look at the district as a whole," he said.


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