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ICCSD discusses changes that expedite new elementary

By Alex Kline
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– The Iowa City Community School District (ICCDS) Board of Directors met on Tuesday, Nov. 26, to discuss adjustments to the facilities master plan in a work session. Updates to the plan will be presented to the board and voted on at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting.
The biggest update to the plan was to accelerate the building of a new north elementary school by one year. The changes call for the new elementary to be open by 2019.
“Rather than using North as a transitory school for Lincoln we looked at the current demographics of Mann and Lincoln and population, and we feel confident that we can locate the two schools together at the same time in the east elementary school,” said superintendent Stephen Murley.
This would also hasten planned renovations to Lincoln elementary school.
The board emphasized the flexibility of the plan to accommodate for future changes in the district, as well as community opinion.
“One of the things I would like to see from this plan is our best foot forward because we have an opportunity here to do some really great things,” said board member Tuyet Dorau. “But it’s also contingent on community buy-in. What are we doing as a district and as a board to get that buy in? Because if we don’t present a plan or frame work that our community buys into, they’re not going to fund it.”
Board president Sally Hoelscher added that she would like to revisit the plan annually sometime in the fall. Hoelscher said she expects frequent updates on all projects, but specifically wants those which pertain to financial data, enrollment projections, operational costs and direction.
“It is likely that some of these things may change. It’s not set in stone,” said Hoelscher. “Then again, what I’ve heard is that they can’t just change willy-nilly.”
Superintendent Stephen Murley agreed that reviewing the plan in the fall would be a good idea to keep board members current on various aspects of the 10-year project.
“It would be a good point for us to revisit not only the work that’s been completed but also the that work we foresee for the next year and get that annual update for those projects that are on the horizon,” Murley said.
Some board members worried about the effect this would have on capacity in already overfilled schools, which prompted the board to answer for their decision to close Hoover.
“When our operational numbers are so close as far as our capacity and our projected enrollment, why are we closing Hoover?” asked Dorau.
Hoelscher explained that it was more efficient to operate larger buildings rather than smaller elementary schools.
“Keeping Hoover open, we could do it, but there would be a cost,” Hoelscher said. “There’s not one big reason to close Hoover, but it’s the perfect storm of multiple reasons.”
Board member Jeff McGinness added that costs of keeping the school open didn’t benefit the district. Its location to other nearby schools and classroom sizes were key points that motivated the board’s decision.
“Do we have the funds to operate the new schools as well as Hoover? Yeah we could, but at what cost?” said McGinness.