School District plans redistricting

BY DANIEL SEIDL | APRIL 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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Officials are taking a community-based approach to redesigning attendance areas for the Iowa City School District.

“What I think is important is that we involve people in a solution-based way,” said School Board member Chris Lynch. “The community input has definitely been very influential in the options.”

The district kicked off the Attendance Area Development process in March, and it is set to continue for several years. The process aims to redesign the areas the district’s schools draw from. Officials provided an update on the process at a joint meeting on Monday with representatives from the Iowa City and Johnson County governments.

The first districts officials are examining are cluster one, cluster two, and the secondary cluster. These districts encompass all the junior-high schools, City High and West High, and 14 of the 22 elementary schools, including the new schools.

Planning for these three clusters will be finished this spring, though the new plan will not be implemented until the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year.

One objective of the redistricting is to make every inch of space count, said board member Tuyet Dorau.

“One of the goals is to utilize our space as efficiently as possible,” she said. “The redistricting is looking at the attendance areas of the existing schools and … making sure that we have redrawn the boundaries so that we have students utilizing the spaces in [our] new schools.”

The new schools — including three new elementary schools and one new high school — are part of the district’s Facilities Master Plan, which outlines various improvements to the district for the next 10 years.

The first new school, South Elementary, is set to open in the fall of 2015; it will cost roughly $14 million. East Elementary will open in 2017 and will cost roughly $14 million. The new North High School will also open in 2017 and will cost roughly $63 million. North Elementary will open in 2019 and will cost roughly $14 million.

Superintendent Steve Murley said the redistricting would help account for the growing district.

“One of the lessons learned as we’ve gone through building schools is to do a better job utilizing community space,” he said. “We’re a growing School District.”

The new schools will help hold some of the overflow at the district’s current buildings. One way this will be done is by using the new schools as transitional facilities for current students.

“We’re actually going to move the entire school, everything from the students to the staff, out to that East Side school,” he said. “We’ll be able to use the east side elementary school to do that for two years.”

Lynch said it is imperative that the short-term redistricting goals match the long-term facilities plan.

“I think we need to make sure that all the plans are in sync,” he said. “One of the things we’ll be looking for is looking at how the current recommendations fit with the long-term plan.”

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