The school board for Iowa’s fourth-fastest growing school district, in terms of percentage, has given the green light to new facilities that will house its ever-expanding student enrollment.
During a regular meeting Wednesday night, the Clear Creek Amana Community School District’s school board unanimously approved allowing architecture consulting firm Shive-Hattery to take the next steps in developing plans for additions to Clear Creek Amana High School, Clear Creek Amana Middle School and a new pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school in the northeast portion of the district, near North Liberty and Tiffin.
“We’re very pleased that we finally got to this point,” said school board vice president Rick Hergert.
New superintendent Tim Kuehl and members of the school board are planning to put a bond issue on the ballot in February 2014 in order to fund the construction. Estimates for the dollar amount are not yet available, but Kuehl said it could be up to $50 million.
“I don’t anticipate asking for that much,” the administrator said.
By authorizing Shive-Hattery to move forward, the board is taking the next step in finding out how much these facilities expansions will cost.
Keith Johnk, senior educational planner with Shive-Hattery, said those estimates should be available as soon as September.
“If the bond referendum is successful, we’ll have something we can turn a shovel on as soon as possible,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, you still have the plans for the future.”
An April Iowa Department of Education forecast showed that the school system is set to add at least 386 new learners, a 23.1 percent increase, by the 2017-18 academic year. In 2012-13, the district’s certified enrollment was 1,671 students. Certified enrollment numbers for the current school year will not be available until October, but Kuehl said the district is on par with projections.
“We have a lot of kids, as I thought we would,” Kuehl said. “We’ve got some challenges due to our growing enrollment, but it’s much better than being on the flip side of that coin.”
Citing information from Tim Oswald, the district’s financial adviser from Piper Jaffray, Hergert said the district should be able to fund the facilities expansion without increasing property taxes.
The school system includes areas in North Liberty, Coralville, Oxford, the Amana Colonies and Tiffin and five school buildings: one high school, a middle school and three elementary schools. The district’s last major facilities upgrade was an addition to North Bend Elementary School in North Liberty, which was approved in 2012 and bowed on Aug. 20, the first day of school for district students.
Johnk and Kuehl both feel that the middle school addition and the new elementary building, which is set to mirror North Bend, are the most urgent priorities. The new building is set to accommodate more than 500 learners while the middle-school renovation and expansion will include new classrooms and additional common-area space. The plan is to have those open by fall 2015.
“We know we’re going to need more facilities,” Kuehl said. “We know we’re going to need these facilities.”
It is not yet clear whether the February bond question will include funding for a facilities expansion at the high school, though Kuehl said it’s likely to simply so that the board can avoid going to voters too frequently for building dollars. If approved, he forecast that the high school addition will be ready by fall 2017.