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Schematic design for Liberty High School

Artist’s rendering of the main entrance to the planned new Liberty High School in North Liberty. (Image courtesy of Iowa City Community School District).

By Paul Deaton
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– A high school can be the heart of a community, and the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) is on pace to bring a new one to North Liberty.
As the school board heard reports on policy and progress at its Aug. 26 meeting, included was a schematic design proposal from SVPA Architects, Inc. (SVPA) for Liberty High School, a 250,000 square foot facility on 76 acres at the intersection of Dubuque Street and North Liberty Road in North Liberty.
Board members were pleased with the architectural work, as indicated by their unanimous approval of the schematic design documents presented by the firm.
Liberty High School will be built in three phases over the next eight to 10 years, with construction of phase one, including the school building, to begin in spring of 2015 and be completed before the beginning of the school year in August 2017.
Phase two is the construction of the exterior athletic facilities and a bus facility, scheduled to break ground in 2018. Phase three is a 500-student capacity addition planned for construction in 2021.
After approving the new high school last November, the board awarded a $2.43 million design contract to SVPA in March to develop schematic designs for the first two phases of the project. The district set a budget of $58,929,000 for phases one and two, with an estimated construction cost of $45,538,000.
Infrastructure to support site development for the school will be required, as no public utilities currently service the site.
The City of North Liberty has begun its own design phase to bring water and sewer to the site. The city council has included the utilities, roads and other necessary infrastructure to service the school and surrounding area in its Capital Improvements Plan and annual budget planning process. North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar has indicated in prior meetings the city will negotiate cost-sharing arrangements for infrastructure needs with school district officials, as it would with any developer.
Vitus Bering, vice president and chief financial officer of SVPA, presented the concept drawings for the new school to the board last week.
“The overall theme of the plan is organized around a grand central commons space that divides the activities side from the academic side,” said Bering. SVPA consulted with a high school steering committee that has been planning the project. They held individual and small group meetings with key stakeholders in order to better understand their needs, according to Bering.
As the plan developed, changes were made based on input from the steering committee, resulting in the schematic design having significant consensus among stakeholders, Bering noted.
The board had some questions, including concern that there was only one elevator planned for the two-story structure. In the end, the vote to approve the schematic design plan was unanimous. (Directors Patti Fields and Jeff McGinnis were absent).
Next steps for project development include finalizing estimated operational costs and moving from a schematic design to one that can be released for construction bids.
Van Allen School
Having rejected initial bids for the additions at Van Allen Elementary, Duane Van Hemert, ICCSD physical plant director, provided an update on the process of re-bidding the project.
“It did come in significantly lower than the first go-around– about 20 percent. However, it is still about one percent higher than our target. At this point I feel like we had three really close, competitive bids,” said Van Hemert. “We’re there. We need to move forward with it. The one percent we will figure out how to get that back somewhere else.”
During a report from Superintendent Steve Murley on Before and After School Programs (BASP), there was a discussion of funding as it relates to equity issues, including reference to the North Liberty BASP.
The concern was that because programs like those at the community center do not accept Child Care Assistance (CCA), children on the free and reduced lunch program may not be able to afford to participate, creating an equity issue.
To receive CCA funds, a BASP program must be licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services, and the North Liberty programs are not currently licensed.
As of August 2014, the North Liberty Recreation Center was planning to apply for licensing through the DHS, according to Murley.
In other business, the board approved a number of policies, including a third reading of the once-controversial Public Comment Guidelines. These guidelines were intended to facilitate the public comment process, especially for new members of the community who wish to address the school board. The third reading of the guidelines was approved unanimously.