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Iowa City School District committee proposes changes

BY NICK HASSETT | MAY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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As the Iowa City School District builds a plan for the next 10 years, schools in the district could be on the receiving end of everything from a few renovations to a massive overhaul.

The district’s Steering Committee for Facilities Master Planning met Monday evening to narrow a large list of potential ideas to accommodate student population and update facilities.

“How is it we can say we’re moving to a 21st-century curriculum, when [district facilities] haven’t adopted that,” said Sam Johnson, the director of the PK-12 Design group for BLDD Architects, which is working with the district. “The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know what will happen, we have to plan for uncertainty and build flexibility in our facilities.”

The School District's steering committee includes representatives from city councils, the district, BLDD Architects, and teachers. At Monday’s meeting, members worked on proposals to present to the community.

“We want real choices for the community to consider,” Johnson said.

An education-facilities planning firm estimates the district will have 15,140 students in 2022-23, up from 12,767 in 2013-14.

“When you take 15,000 students and try to put them in our current facilities, you’ll see that the status quo is inadequate,” Johnson said.

The options include adding elementary, junior high, and high schools as well as renovating, adding on to, or closing existing ones.

Members split into groups and then submitted preliminary proposals to the committee as a whole. The most discussed possibility was whether to change the structure of the grades in the district by possibly moving sixth-graders to elementary school or putting ninth-graders into junior high schools.

Iowa City City Councilor Michelle Payne said her group was in favor of moving ninth-grade students to junior high and creating a new junior high to accommodate them.

“I think we did pretty well,” she said, referring to her group’s proposal. “We kept the neighborhood schools and didn’t pick any options that closed schools.”

However, Chris Hoffman, a North Liberty city councilor, said moving ninth-graders back wasn’t ideal.

“Our thought process was, ninth-graders are getting into high school and taking all these AP courses,” he said. “Moving them back would be a disservice.”

The proposals will go to community workshops over the next week. On May 22, the Steering Committee will decide on a final proposal to submit to the School Board.

Johnson said community input will be crucial.

“It helps the School District make an informed decision,” he said. “People are passionate about education.”


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