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School Board details two building scenarios

BY JULIA TRUSZKOWSKI | JULY 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite more than three hours of back-and-forth discussions and debates regarding the future of a number of Iowa City School District schools, final decisions still appear a ways off.

After the presentation of two proposed scenarios to the School Board regarding a 10-year facilities plan in a meeting Tuesday, board members postponed making a decision.

The Facilities Master Planning Steering Committee began crafting a plan to serve as a guideline for construction projects on Feb. 25 in a series of six committee meetings and seven public-input meetings.

The committee is made up of representatives from city councils, the district, Davenport-based BLDD Architects, and teachers.

The committee narrowed the initial eight proposed scenarios down to a final two, using public opinion to determine which result in the most beneficial outcomes for the district.

The result?

Two scenarios, dubbed 1D and 4C.

The first proposes that the district’s smallest school, Hills Elementary, would be rebuilt at its current site and add 100 more students. The former Roosevelt Elementary, now repurposed as the Roosevelt Education Center, would serve as a “swing” elementary school pending renovations to Longfellow and Mann. Additionally, a 100- to 150-student addition at North Central Junior High in North Liberty would feed help feed into a new 1,400- to 1,600-student high school. Two Iowa City and one northern Johnson County elementary school would also open.

This estimated cost is to stand at $98.6 million.

The alternative Scenario 4C, a less costly option, calls for the same measures as 1D; however, Hoover Elementary would serve as the “swing” school until expansion is needed at nearby City High and Hills and Lincoln would be shuttered.

“The steering committee has done a terrific amount of work,” said Alex Taylor, member of the committee and parent of four students in the district. “It is a long process; it has been very productive.”

Taylor and other committee members discussed the importance of various factors in ensuring the growth of the district over a series of meetings, with safety and security outlining the first concern of both the committee and the district as a whole.

Changes in current facilities were deemed necessary to account for the changing role of schools, according to the steering committee.

“We want to make sure that our facilities are able to provide an educational environment for the 21st century,” Taylor said.

The attendees of the public-input workshops ranked their desires for characteristics of 21st-century schools. Providing a healthy, technology-infused, and student-centered education proved to be the most important to community members.

An abundance of district members described the district’s current facilities as overcrowded.

This proved to be an issue for the state’s fifth-largest, 12,000-student district with the expected arrival of 3,000 more students in the next decade.

When presented with the various proposed scenarios, 1D and 4C received the highest ratings at elementary, junior-high, and high-school levels regarding their abilities to account for the public’s desires.

The public later showed a strong preference towards scenario 1D.

Despite this preference, a vast majority of community members opposed the demolition of any neighborhood school, particularly Hoover, leaving many hesitant to support either scenario.

“Closing a neighborhood school is a decision with grave consequences,” local attorney Mary Kate Pilcher Hayek said. “I have not received conclusive information from the district. What are the prospective uses of Hoover that could be used to help City High?”

Other community members feel that the board members’ motives were misleading when proposing a facilities plan.

“The topic of closing schools has taken on a much greater role after the election than before the election,” local parent Greg Gerdes, said. “That is neither fair nor honest, and that is something the public has little tolerance for.”

Because board members have yet to reach a final decision, they plan to discuss the two scenarios more thoroughly in a meeting July 16 and make a final decision by July 23.

“I think it’s premature to accuse us of making decisions when we haven’t yet made decisions,” board member Tuyet Dorau said. “Respect on both sides is needed instead of premature accusations.”


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