City High's new performing arts wing drawing criticism, praise


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Although the focus in the Iowa City School District has been on the looming possibilities of elementary-school closures, coupled with the long-talked about third high school, one local group says additional concerns should be addressed.

Before a June 4 School Board meeting at the district’s headquarters, district parents, teachers, and board members mulled the future and current standings of a number of less-publicized projects, chief among them the newly built performing-arts wing at City High, 1900 Morningside Drive.

The $5.61 million project, more than four years in the making, has hit another stumble, this time relating to last-minute floor chabges.

Designed to coincide with the school’s 1930s style, the new wing features new choral, orchestra, and band recital rooms and storage for theater supplies, instruments, and marching-band uniforms. And while much of the new facility echoes that of the rest of the school — including hardwood floors, curved windows, and a matching brick exterior, criticism has fallen on the installation of cheaper concrete flooring in the wing’s band room.

Terry Coleman, a City Highs assistant principal, said the addition’s initial plan was to have polished concrete flooring in the band room, as it was the most preferred acoustically sound surface for the instructors.

But, he said, as the project moved forward and the preliminary cost had to be sliced down from $12 million, something had to be trimmed from the budget. Although he said he wasn’t notified by lead architect Shive-Hattery on the flooring change, he said he prefers the final result over a once-mentioned cut in the facility’s 18,500 square-foot addition, noting that “it was always going to be concrete of some flavor.”

When asked about the miscommunication, Coleman compared the installation of the new flooring to the terms of use that appears when making online shopping purchases, a necessity to move forward but something that people don’t usually look into.

It’s not just him who was left out of the communication loop, he said.

“I don’t know if [School Board members] were ever informed of the pouring of the floor at any given time,” he said.

“There just isn’t time to do that,” he noted, given the often drawn-out board meetings.

Coleman said during the budgeting process, the financial responsibilities landed on former physical-plant director Paul Schultz, while the approval of the flooring installation would have come back to the School Board.

One local community member, Phil Hemingway, has cried foul about the seemingly transparent issue, calling on the board to take responsibility.

“It’s nice to know that our preferred vendor, Shive Hattery, is the reason why taxpayers are spending $155,000,” he said. “This is the decision that is forced upon us … It’s unfortunate that we aren’t getting the floors we want. I would remind the board [members] of their fiduciary responsibilities to the public.”

For physical-plant director Duane Van Hemert, the end result, now a rubber tile surface to be installed in place of the current cracked, unsealed concrete, is a happy medium.

“When you see the quality of the structure, the [concrete] floor would’ve been a total distraction,” he said.

Van Hemert said the new rubber tile, although cheaper than the original polished concrete, would still prove to be a durable and low-maintenance floor. Cost savings for the new tile over the initially preferred surface have not been disclosed.

When The Daily Iowan tried to reach to the Shive Hattery lead architect for the project, Tandi Dausener, she referred all comments back to the School Board members.

As of Sunday evening, Superintendent Steve Murley could not be reached for comment on the installation of flooring and who granted Shive Hattery approval.

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