Administrators in the Iowa City Community School District are asking school board members to grant Hoover Elementary School a reprieve, sort of.
Hoover would remain open through spring 2021 as a what Superintendent Stephen Murley called a “swing school” under the phasing plan for the district’s facilities master plan, which the administrator presented to the school board during a work session Tuesday evening.
Board members are set to vote on the plan, which would begin in July 2014 and run through fall 2023, during their Tuesday, Nov. 12 regular meeting. The board approved the overall slate of projects, now set to cost $258.39 million, in July but Tuesday night’s meeting was the unveiling of a schedule.
Hoover would get upgrades, such as becoming 100 percent airconditioned, while being used as an alternative facility for students at Lucas, Longfellow, Shimek, Mann and Lincoln elementary schools while those buildings undergo construction.
“This is definitely our least expensive option,” Murley said. He noted that using Hoover was one of 11 options administrators looked at to house students whose schools are being upgraded. The district will also use a new eight-classroom modular facility for Lemme, Kirkwood, South East Junior High and Northwest Junior High schools when work begins on those spaces.
“That allows us to get a big chunk of the work done while the students are there and also allows us to make sure that the students are safe,” Murley said. In fall 2017, learners at Iowa City West High School will transition to the new north side high school for the same purpose.
Those aren’t the only student moves planned. As district administrators work to implement the much-maligned diversity policy to balance the population of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches between buildings, against the backdrop of these facilities upgrades, attendance boundaries would change for students at both high schools in 2015-16 and 2022-23 alongside the new third high school, all three junior high schools in 2014-15 and 2022-23 and various elementary schools, from 2014-15 through 2020-21, with some being rezoned twice.
“In order for us to add, we’re going to have to rezone,” Murley said. “It extends way past the diversity policy in order for us to utilize all of the seats we have available.”
While Jessi Williams, a Penn Elementary School parent who lives in North Liberty, found a lot of good in the plan, the changing of boundaries multiple times unsettled her.
“My initial reaction is just that there’s too much redistricting,” she said. “Mobility is really bad for kids.”
The plan also includes asking voters for an additional $120 million via general obligation bonds in fall 2017 in order to complete execution of the project, which primarily relies on funding through sales tax, Physical Plant and Equipment Levy and bond dollars for funding. Chief Financial Officer Craig Hansel estimated that, if approved by the required 60 percent of voters, the district’s tax rate would increase by $1.17 per $1,000 of taxable valuation.
Murley voiced optimism that the public would approve the bonds, but simply stated the reality of what would happen if he’s wrong.
“We’re gonna run out of money,” he said.