School boundary discussion tests limits
NORTH LIBERTY– Iowa City Superintendent Lane Plugge said he had no illusions that everyone would be pleased.
Dr. Plugge and Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Associate Superintendent Jim Behle proposed a revised boundary scenario for a new elementary school in North Liberty at a public forum at Penn Elementary last Wednesday, Jan. 14, and the response of some who attended matched the evening’s frigid weather.
Residents of Cedar Springs development, on the north side of Mehaffey Bridge Road, were unhappy that students in their subdivision would be moved from the Penn Elementary attendance area to Garner Elementary, citing busing and isolation concerns. Cedar Springs backs up to Fox Run, also in the Penn attendance area, and children from the two subdivisions have formed friendships they want to maintain.
“There’s going to be a separation,” said Cedar Springs resident Andrea Ripley. “Our kids play together after school. There are tons of kids who live right behind us that (our kids) will be no longer connected to.”
Under the new proposal, children from the Cedar Springs development and their siblings would be allowed to remain at Penn under the district’s transfer policy, but transfers are not guaranteed and no transportation would be provided.
Instead, children living in Cedar Springs would be bussed to Garner Elementary, also a concern of some parents.
“It would be safer for our kids going on a bus from Fox Run. It would be further for them to walk than to go on a bus to the new school, because (the subdivisions) are that connected,” said Jason Egge.
“The one thing that doesn’t make sense in the whole busing plan is us,” agreed Ripley, particularly since there are currently just 10 elementary school-aged children living in Cedar Springs. “We are the outliers.”
Behle said he and district officials tried to divide new and existing neighborhoods between Penn and Garner to keep future enrollments stable. As new neighborhoods potentially fill with younger families, older neighborhoods will “age out” over time, he said. If too many new developments are kept in the Penn attendance area, Penn school could become rapidly overcrowded.
An earlier proposal included Aspen Ridge subdivision, also on the north edge of North Liberty, in the Garner attendance area. It was replaced with Cedar Springs because Aspen Ridge was connected to Fox Run by a street, and because Cedar Springs is already platted with infrastructure and will likely develop more quickly.
Behle said the district also looked at natural boundaries surrounding neighborhoods, such as Highway 965, major through-streets and the Crandic railroad, and tried to balance socioeconomic and ethnic demographics, minimize busing and safety concerns and reduce student disruptions by moving the minimal number of students.
The last factor was the reason for an objection raised by parent Kathy Duys, whose son now attends Penn but would be moved to Garner .
“I don’t feel you’re taking enough students from Penn to give them that community feeling,” Duys said. “I really think you need to consider taking another section from Penn somehow, or opening it up to transfer.”
According to district projections, the three schools of Penn, Garner and Van Allen Elementary will be operating at capacity when Garner opens in the fall of 2010.
Also included within the new school’s proposed boundaries are: areas between Highway 965 and S. Jones Blvd. from Augusta Circle north to Penn Street; the Holiday Mobile Home Park; and areas on the east side of Highway 965 from Zeller Street southward to Tartan Drive and eastward to Dubuque Street.
The latest boundary proposal will return to the ICCSD Board of Education’s next agenda for review on Jan. 27, said Plugge, where they will either approve it, vote it down, or request Plugge and Behle to craft another option all together.
Parents asked for the board to be made aware of their concerns, and made one last plea that Cedar Springs be left in its current attendance area.
“Decision-wise, we are not pressed by time,” Plugge said. “If the board directs us to offer up other scenarios with the things you’ve suggested, we still have time to do that.
“But,” he added, “it might come with a caveat that it might not last as long.”