District breaks ground for new school

BY ALEX HANAFAN | JUNE 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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After months of planning, South Elementary took a step forward.

Elementary students from Grant Wood, 1930 Lakeside Drive, and Twain, 1355 Deforest Ave., joined Mayor Matt Hayek, along with several School District officials for the official groundbreaking of South Elementary on Tuesday afternoon.

The elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2015.

The building will be located on the east side of Sycamore Street. It will have 66,856 square feet and contain a two-court gymnasium, media center, computer labs as well as numerous classrooms for grades K-5.

The double-sized gymnasium resembles the one at Wood Elementary. Officials believed that size gym would help benefit families as well as the community.

“The gym will bring families together as well as host meetings for the Iowa City community,” Hayek said.

South Elementary will be one of three new elementary schools and one new high school. The new schools will be built because the district has become overcrowded. Last year, a report indicated the district’s enrollment had increased by 1,852 students in the past 10 years.

More than 20 percent of students in the School District don’t attend the schools closest to their homes.

The district’s attendance area development has been designed to restructure the areas the district’s schools pull from to provide a more balanced socioeconomic surrounding as well as lessening the overflow of students.

South Elementary will have a capacity of up to 500 students and will be the first school to open for the 2015 academic year.

“This is the first new elementary school built in Iowa City in more than 20 years and the first east of the river in more than 40 years,” Hayek said.

The project will cost roughly $11.2 million to complete.

Hayek said this area of is one of the “most exciting” parts of Iowa City because of its vast amount of land and numerous parks.

He said the southern area is expecting enormous growth, with more than 17,000 acres of new residential housing and an estimated of 10,000 new residents before 2019. 

In addition to a new school, Hayek said the city is investing approximately $3 million to improve Sycamore Street and another $3 million in cleaning up Sand Road. The roads are parallel to each other and will serve as feeders to the new school.

Superintendent Steve Murley said the Lehman family — a local family living in the area — donated two of their acres equivalent to $70,000. He noted that although it may not seem large in scale, it helped keep the project “right on track.”

“We are certainly appreciative of their generosity,” Murley said.

School Board President Sally Hoelscher, who was also on the board of the design committee for South Elementary, said she is excited to see people of the community benefit from the school as well.

“The 10-year plan will affect all school buildings in the district,” she said.

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