IOWA CITY – Iowa City school district Superintendent Stephen Murley on Tuesday reaffirmed his support for building a third comprehensive high school.
He said research on high school sizes supports the viability of a smaller school like the 900-student building the district is contemplating, and administrators are recommending the school board continue to move forward with its 2010 decision to eventually build a new high school.
The school board, meeting as its Facilities Committee Tuesday, was briefed on a high school size report conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Hanover Research.
It says “small” high schools have fewer than 600 students, while “large” high schools have more than 1,500 students.
The district’s existing comprehensive high schools, West High and City High, have 1,950 students and 1,450 students, respectively. Their capacities are 1,800 and 1,600, respectively.
The district is exploring the idea of a high school, probably in the growing North Liberty area, of around 900 students.
Research has found no correlation between high school size and student achievement, according to the report. Large schools offer more courses, while small schools have more focused curricular offerings, the report found. Smaller schools typically have higher graduation and attendance rates.
A report by Iowa City school district administrators earlier this year found that a smaller high school would have similar course offering to City High and West High.
Research shows both type of schools have positive social benefits, according to the report.
Murley said the Hanover report “validates” the school board’s previous decision to eventually build a new school.
Each school board member did not weigh in on his or her thinking, but no one expressed outright opposition to Murley’s conclusions.
Board member Jeff McGinness, who in March said he wanted administrators to explore alternatives to a new high school, said he supports a new school as long as it’s part of a long-term facilities plan.
Any sort of timeline remains unclear, but Murley said he is actively looking for land for a high school, as well as parcels for an east-side elementary school.
Part of the decision-making process involves getting more data. Murley wants to hire consultants to analyze enrollment projections, building capacities and attendance zones. Board members on Tuesday gave their consent for a request for proposals to be drawn up.