Iowa City school district tables vote on Roosevelt sale


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Iowa City School District officials said they will keep Roosevelt Elementary a bit longer after tabling the discussion Tuesday.

The board discussed putting Roosevelt Elementary up for bid, with only School Board member Jeff McGuiness dissenting, to table the issue of putting the school on the market until a now undecided time.

“It’s [Iowa City’s] jurisdiction, not ours,” School Board member Tuyet Dorau said. “Ultimately, our responsibility is to the parents and the district, not the neighborhood. Zoning is not up to us.”

The school was originally appraised at roughly $700,000. When put up to bid, the offer the district received was much lower, at $200,000. The school did not accept the bid, and the reserve price for the school was then set for $300,000.

The bid was significantly lower because of the restrictions the board had put in place, which stated the land could not be used for something like a gas station, bar, or student apartments.

Superintendent Steve Murley said he wanted to be a “good neighbor” to Iowa City and make sure whatever replaced Roosevelt would enhance the neighborhood.

“There are two sides of the coin,” he said. “We want to be a responsible neighbor and close it and dispose it, but we looked at it and said what do we want to do with it. To make it up to date with the 21st century, we decided it would cost too much.”

The district spends roughly $50,000 to keep the school maintained for a year. If the board decided to have programs in the school, it would cost roughly $100,000 per year, Murley said.

Yet many community and board members thought that was a low enough price to keep the building in the School District, where they could take time to look at possibilities Roosevelt may provide.
One community member believed the building was appraised too early, and the district needed to evaluate the situation fully.

“I think we should fully explore all the possibilities,” Chip Hardesty said. “You shouldn’t sell for the sake of selling it — you’ll sell it way too short. None of [the School Board members] are real-estate experts, I’m not, but common sense would dictate that you would want to get the most money for the public. That’s what a School Board is for, to represent the public.”

Options for the school included turning the property into an outdoor learning facility, which was also brought up at a grounds meeting Monday night by community members.

Community member Phil Hemingway said the school could be used to benefit the students, and he was not concerned about the price to maintain it.

“The potential in this school is worth it to keep it for another year,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about spending $50,000 to maintain the facility that can be used for the kids. What’s wrong with the school? It’s centrally located, near a bus zone, it’s wired. It costs $50,000 to maintain it; don’t rush into a decision.”

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