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School Board firm on Hoover

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | JULY 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite an outpouring of red-shirted “Save Hoover” advocates, many of whom were students, teachers, and Iowa City area residents, the Iowa City School Board effectively has sent the East Side elementary school to the chopping block.

During a nearly packed house at the School District’s headquarters, the board voted that in order to meet district-wide growth margins, Hoover must be retired.

The decision, marked by a 5-2 vote, is just a piece in the long-range construction and comprehensive building-upgrade puzzle. Only board President Marla Swesey and board member Tuyet Dorau opposed the measure.

For Dorau, the notion of closing one school that currently serves the growing elementary branch, makes little to no sense next to plans for using its land for future, undetermined growth needs for nearby City High.

“I think we’re jumping the gun,” she said on the decision.

Under the plans, the 59-year-old Hoover, 2200 E. Court St., will be shuttered at a yet-to-be-determined date set after the spring of 2018.

The approximately 330-student elementary has been just one of the targets of closure during the past several months. The district is trying to form a blueprint for the state’s fifth-largest district, which is expected to see an increase of 3,000 students in the coming decade. The current student population is around 12,000.

Vernon Dengler, who lives just a few blocks from Hoover, has watched his children attend the school before moving on to Southeast Junior High and then to City High. Given the expected enrollment projections, he said, he remains unsure why the board targeted any school closures.

“Each school is actually projected to increase in enrollment,” he said. “It appears to me that each elementary school is needed to handle new students.”

District officials have contended over the last several weeks that closing less-efficient older schools and replacing them with higher-capacity new facilities will not only save the district general-maintenance money, it will help retain teachers.

But recently, as members, alongside the Steering Committee for Facilities Master Planning, composed of up representatives from area city councils, the district, Davenport-based BLDD Architects, and teachers, have mulled over the district’s future, many have asked, “Why Hoover?”
For weeks, it was given a back seat to discussions over the future of Lincoln Elementary and Hills Elementary.

But under the new agenda, the eventual retirement of Hoover was given the green light in order to one day expand the adjacent City High, now targeted for a 300-student addition.

For the next decade, the current $260.4 million outline details a new 1,500-student north corridor high school opening in the fall of 2018, renovation and expansions at several elementary and secondary schools, and three new 500-student elementary schools, including two in Iowa City proper.

The move outlines that Hoover will not close before the 2017-2018 school year. Come November, Superintendent Stephen Murley must come up with a preliminary timeline.

During previous meetings, board members, including Sarah Swisher, have tried to reason with the widespread, predominantly East Side residents who have attended discussions. Board members contended that children can simply walk a little farther to nearby schools.

By way of East Court Street, Hoover stands just 1 mile from Longfellow, 1.5 miles from Lemme, and less than a mile to Lucas Elementary.

“If Hoover were a brand-new school, we would be looking at this differently,” she said.

Reluctant to let City High enrollment drop below 1,500, board member Sally Hoelscher noted the closure of Hoover and City expansion will allow the latter to remain in line with projected enrollment numbers at West High and the future new high school.

While several in attendance contended that Hoover is not only prominent for the culture of Iowa City, it is also environmentally friendly sound and supports stable residential property values of a fast-developing East Side.

The pending closure, they say, will shrink neighborhood diversity and home values, as new to the area residents will still wish to settle in residences near schools.

Board member Jeff McGinness said he expects to see “massive” redistricting pending the retirement of Hoover.

But for 6-year-old Hoover student Lily Lumb, the closing of Hoover would prove to be more personal.

“I think Hoover’s special because I can walk to school, and I like it because I don’t really like to drive that much,” she said. “And I don’t really want to lose any of my friends. And I want to play on the playground. Please do not close Hoover.”


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