Iowa City and other school districts across the state predicted to grow


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The fifth-largest school district in Iowa isn’t the only one expected to grow over the next 10 years.

The Iowa City School District’s growth is a combination of progression, birth rates, and survival rates in Johnson County.

School Board President Chris Lynch said the district has been aware of these estimates for a long time, which is why construction of new schools and additions to others has been a recent priority.

“We continue to see significant growth in the district,” he said.

There were 13,050 students enrolled in the district for the current school year, up from 12,774 last year.

The three new elementary schools being built, a upcoming new high school, and other school additions have been a result of data from annual reports on district growth, Lynch said.

To accommodate the growth, he said, the more students in the district means the more funding they bring in, which allows the district to hire more teachers.

“Providing an excellent learning experience for our students is our main goal,” Lynch said. “We want our students to have an excellent learning environment.”

The district’s budget for the growth comes from a variety of taxes. A little more than half comes from state taxes, and a little under half comes from local property taxes. Five percent is funded federally.

“Remember that the facilities master plan is based on most extensive community plan,” Lynch said. “So far we’re on schedule and in budget.”

Iowa City isn’t alone in its district expansion. Clear Creek-Amana School District also is expected to grow in the next 10 years.

That district serves the communities of Amana, Cosgrove, Oxford, part of North Liberty, and Tiffin.

Superintendent Tim Kuehl said the district’s growth estimates are based on a study done by retired University of Iowa geography Professor Gerard Rushton. RSP & Associates also did a study last fall with similar estimates.

“They anticipated roughly about 100 new students a year,” Kuehl said.

There are currently 1,920 students in attendance in the district.

Clear Creek-Amana also has schools under construction to accommodate the growth, such as a new elementary school opening this fall.

Other projects include an addition to its middle school and an expansion to its high school.

Pleasant Valley School District serves 4,200 students in its district.

The district contains students in Le Claire, Panorama Park, Riverdale, Pleasant Valley, and Bettendorf.

Pleasant Valley officials also expect to see growth in future years, as indicated by previous years’ growth.

Last year, the district grew by 100 students, and the year before by around 240. The year before that, approximately 60 new kids joined the district.

“It’s a theme of growth, but we’re not on same pace as others [in the state],” said Pleasant Valley Superintendent Jim Spelhaug.

A new elementary school has been in session for five years, and Spelhaug said it is growing rapidly.

For other schools, however, it is not as easy as building a new school.

“One of most complicated aspects is the high school,” Spelhaug said. “We looked at several ways to look at growth at the high school, and we have finalized what we call separate but connected.

“As we continue to add onto the high school, we will do that with a design that will be a ninth grade house, and it will operate separately.”

The first stage of the project will begin construction in two years. Ninth graders will attend school in the same building as the rest of the high school but will be secluded in one section of the building, complete with its own entrances and main office.

The purpose is to have a site ready for a second high school.

“What might make sense 25 years from now is pretty difficult [to make decisions for] now, on an economic and political scale,” Spelhaug said.

The district also built an addition to a middle school.

“Our community has room to grow,” Spelhaug said. “We see our responsibility, on this economic development level, that this school district is recruiting individuals to come work in this area. [We want to be] a reason someone would relocate here, and that’s what we want for our schools.”

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