Class Sizes Key in College Community District Bond Vote

By Patrick Hogan, Reporter

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By Belinda Yeung

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — With less than a week left until the April 3, 2012, $15 million bond election, College Community School District residents are making up their minds on whether or not the district should build a new elementary school.

A handful of voters came out to an open house at Prairie Ridge Elementary School for more information on the election Thursday, March 29, 2012, evening. The district also has made more than 17 visits to local community groups to present its case for the bond issue and new school.

Superintendent Dick Whitehead has a good feeling about the election, but said the result would depend on voter turnout levels, with a high turnout making a yes vote more likely.

“There’s strong community support for this, but we need to let people know that the way to express that support is by coming out and voting,” he said.

Mary and Brian Morrill were undecided when they showed up for the open house. The Walford residents have several children in College Community schools and were concerned about whether the new school would do enough to lower rising class sizes.

The average elementary school class size in College Community is around 25, up from 21 during the 2006-2007 school year. The rise is due to an all-around increase in enrollment for the district during the last decade, from 3,115 students in students in 2000, to a projected amount of more than 5,000 in 2015, a year after the new elementary school would open.

The new building would allow the district to add at least three sections for most grade levels to help bring those numbers back down, which led both Morrills to say they would vote in favor of the bond.

“I would vote yes, even if my property taxes would increase,” Mary Morrill said.

Property taxes will not increase next year if the bond passes, but it is difficult to predict beyond that as much depends on the state of the economy and decisions made in the state Legislature, said Whitehead. He told the Morrills he felt the district finances were in good shape, and that the district has 30 years of tax base growth, which helps keep property tax rates low.

The Morrills also had questions regarding how many students College Community accepts via open enrollment, an issue Whitehead said he gets a lot of questions about.

College Community only allows open enrollment to students from outside to students who previously lived in the area and are seeking to continue there education. In those cases, the district the student currently lives in compensates College Community for that students’ portion of state funding.

The district is planning for growth to continue, recently purchasing a 73 acre property adjacent to the district along Kirkwood Boulevard for $1.4 million. There are no plans to build on that property yet, but the purchase is necessary for future expansion to continue the district’s central campus vision, something community groups have indicated they would like to continue, said Whitehead.

He said the property may be developed in the future, or traded or sold in exchange for other adjacent property.

ELECTION INFORMATION:

WHEN: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

THE QUESTION: Shall the Board of Directors of the College Community School District in the Counties of Benton, Linn, and Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $15,000,000 to provide funds to build and furnish an elementary school building, remodel, repair and improve schoolhouses, and to improve land?

WHERE TO VOTE: Registered voters living in the district may cast their ballot at any of the below locations from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., regardless of their address.

Prairie High School
301 76th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

Fairfax Public Library
313 Vanderbilt St., Fairfax

Ely Public Library
1595 Dows St., Ely

Swisher Legion Hall
68 3rd St. SE, Swisher

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