CEDAR RAPIDS — Taylor Griffith wanted to know where she’d spend her fifth-grade year if Madison Elementary School closed.
Taylor’s mom, Pam Griffith, wanted to know, too, so the pair attended the Cedar Rapids school district’s enrollment and facilities study forum Thursday.
“I like that they’ve been making the public more aware of the process, so that you can come and ask questions,” Griffith said.
She had a question about busing. No one there was able to tell her what would happen if her son, now an eighth-grader at Roosevelt Middle School, chose to attend Kennedy instead of Jefferson, but Griffith will get an answer.
“They took down my information and said they’d email me,” she said.
The public forum marked the first time parents and members of the community could share their concerns about the school closure discussion and potential boundary changes. Residents have had the opportunity to comment on the proposals during school board meetings, but Thursday was a chance for a back-and-forth conversation with school administrators, board members and the consultants who completed the enrollment and facility studies.
“It still makes me very upset,” said Hawa Darbo, a Polk Elementary parent. “I don’t see any reason to close that school. That school is our home.”
Roughly 200 people attended the forum, some staying a few minutes and others who spent more than an hour reviewing the information on display at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.
“I think this has made me more aware of how the decisions for the proposals were made,” said Jen Kovach, co-president of the Madison Elementary PTA. “It’s made me more knowledgeable about what information the district wants from us.”
Any parent, Kovach said, is going to say that their child’s school is the best and should remain open. Madison supporters have worked to provide information that shows why it isn’t a good decision to close the building.
Superintendent Dave Benson has repeatedly said that public input is a crucial part of the enrollment and facility study. Comment cards were available, asking what recommendations the public had regarding the district’s declining enrollment and unbalanced populations in the schools. These cards will be scanned this weekend and available on the district’s website, www.cr.k12.ia.us, on Monday.
The district launched the enrollment and facility studies last school year. An Enrollment Study Stakeholder Committee then settled on five proposals that could close elementary schools — Harrison, Monroe, Polk and Madison are under consideration — and redraw boundary lines at other levels.
The district will hold a second forum next week at Kennedy High. The event, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, will be the last public input session before Benson makes his recommendations to the school board on Feb. 13.
Board members will vote on those recommendations March 12.
Taylor, 9, hopes board members won’t vote to close Madison.
“I like the teachers,” she said. “They’re very nice.”