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Iowa City school board plans for year

BY LILY ABROMEIT | JANUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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This year, the Iowa City School Board will focus on implementing the highly contested issues passed last year in an attempt to equalize the district.

The School Board began work on the diversity, redistricting, and facilities master plans during its Jan. 14 meeting.

The diversity policy is an attempt to better distribute socioeconomic classes in the schools across the district by distributing the percentage of students participating in the free- and reduced-lunch program. The redistricting plan is the response by the board to achieve the diversity policy goals.

Currently, the board is working to begin the first phases of the year’s plans. In order to anticipate new buildings and renovations that come with the diversity and redistricting policies, the board passed the facilities master plan timeline on Tuesday.

“We’re looking at the facilities master plan, and there are things outlined in there for the first year, so we want to keep those things on track,” said board President Sally Hoelscher.

The 10-year, $258 million facilities master plan includes reconstructing or renovating all the schools in the district.

The board also approved the attendance zone timeline for the redistricting of boundaries.

Hoelscher said she is hoping the redistricting plan will create a balance in the district by ensuring every child receives the best education possible by more equally placing students by socioeconomic classes.

Superintendent Steve Murley said the process will begin after spring break. He said rezoning will occur for the junior highs and high schools as well.

“The intent is to recognize that when you open up new buildings and add significant additions on other buildings, we want to take advantage of those new seats by rezoning our [schools] and moving more students into those seats,” he said.

Murley said the redistricting plan goes hand-in-hand with the diversity plan, because it will create a more varied and equal population.

“For both … the intent when we’re done with the process is that there’s an equitable distribution of resources and learning environment,” he said. “We want to make sure that [no matter] where you go to school, that the facilities [are] equal school to school … and we also want to make sure … the student population is equally distributed throughout the district.”

Hoelscher said the projections for the district’s enrollment will continue to grow, and the board wants to ensure the district can accommodate the larger class sizes.

“Obviously, one of our goals … is making sure we have enough seats for the students who are here as well as for the students that are coming,” Hoelscher said.

She also said she thinks the board will need to keep a strict eye on finances in the upcoming year as plans for building and remodeling schools get underway.

School Board member Chris Lynch said he wants to see a strong focus on keeping the financial burden at a reasonable level. The board spent more money last year than authorized for one year, he said, and he hopes to see the opposite take place in 2014.

“You can’t do that forever,” he said. “It’s fine to do that in a single year … and it’s not an issue yet, but it’s something that needs to be addressed now so we don’t have issues two or three years from now.”


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