Hoover Elementary closing fall 2019


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Parents, teachers, and students of Hoover Elementary have proudly maintained their “Save Hoover” protest effort for nearly a year. Their goal: to persuade the Iowa City School Board not to close the doors of Hoover Elementary.

Despite this outpouring of public support, the board voted just after midnight Tuesday to close the 59-year-old East Side elementary school in the fall of 2019.

“There’s not just one reason to shut it down,” said School Board President Sally Hoelscher. “There are a multitude of reasons.”

To begin, Hoelscher said, there are other elementary schools nearby, which means that nearly all Hoover students will still be within walking distance of another school. Furthermore, the building lacks air conditioning and is in need of many other costly improvements.

There are many who are still concerned that closing Hoover is the wrong course of action. Chris Liebig, a parent of two children at Hoover, believes the cost of renovations would be cheaper than destroying Hoover and rebuilding a replacement elsewhere.

“It’s going to cost $10 million to close Hoover down and rebuild somewhere else,” Liebig said. “The figure is actually closer to $12 million if you figure in demolition costs.”

The estimated cost to renovate Hoover, meanwhile, is only $5.1 million, Liebig said.

School Board member Tuyet Dorau, who cast the only vote against the measure, could not be reached for comment.

The decision to retire the elementary school comes as part of a $252 million facilities master plan for the coming decade. The plan includes the construction of three new elementary schools, a new high school, and a number of renovations. The plan is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Enrollment in the School District is projected to grow by at least 3,500 students in the next 10 years, and that is another reason for the closing of Hoover. Hoover had high operating costs and low enrollment, Hoelscher said. The new facilities will operate more cost-effectively and will accommodate more than 4,000 new students.

“It is more expensive to operate smaller schools like Hoover,” Hoelscher said. “Closing Hoover is something we have to do for the sake of efficiency.”

Closing Hoover will also open up space for nearby City High to expand. Opponents of the measure point out that Chadek’s Field, a 5-acre field one block from City High, could provide the same space to expand, perhaps even more cheaply.

The original facilities master plan had Hoover operating as a swing school during construction on Twain and Penn Elementary, from 2016 to 2021. The new, approved plan will see Hoover operate the same way it currently does until its closure. There is also a provision that provides temporary air conditioning for the school.

An amendment was added to the facilities master plan late on Tuesday night that means the board will re-evaluate Hoover every December, giving Hoover’s advocates a reason to be hopeful.

“I’m pretty optimistic that over time, we can convince the board to save Hoover,” Liebig said.

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