Clear Creek-Amana Growing Into The Future

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By Chris Earl

OXFORD, Iowa - In a time of often acrimonious school bond issues, one of Iowa's most rapidly growing districts slid through a major bond referendum without too much opposition.

"I'm very pleased with 78% across the district," said Clear Creek-Amana Superintendent Tim Kuehl on Thursday, more than two weeks since the $48 million referendum for a new elementary school and improvements to existing buildings went to the voters.

Since Clear Creek and Amana merged in 1995 to form the current district, explosive growth in the district's eastern edge has led to a packed elementary building and the push for a fourth elementary school.

Especially with younger students, the growth in Clear Creek-Amana is apparent.

In 2003-2004, CCA has only two elementary buildings, Amana and Oxford.

Amana: 2004: 151 students, 2014: 158 students
Oxford: 2004: 480 students, 2014: 451 students

Yet, in 2008, the district opened a third elementary school, North Bend Elementary in North Liberty. This new facility already has 470 students, upping the district's total K-5 enrollment from 611 in 2004 to 1,079 for the current year.

"Our kindergarten numbers in the last ten years have more than doubled," said Kuehl.

Out of the $48 million referendum, about $17 million is earmarked for the fourth elementary school. On a massive district map in Kuehl's office, a "X" in marker is on the corner of U.S. Highway 6 and Jasper Avenue, east of Tiffin and close to I-380.

Kuehl said the fourth elementary school should be ready in time for August 2015.

"This really keeps us in shape to maintain those elementary class sizes in the low to mid-twenties as we look forward," said Kuehl.

A challenge is with this remarkable growth is making sure the new funding gets to all of the facilities.

Amana Elementary is a 61-year-old facility in Middle Amana, a good twenty miles from North Liberty. It has, by far, the smallest enrollment of the three elementary schools. The passage of the referendum means this building will finally have air conditioning all throughout.

"It would be upwards of 100 degrees in there and that makes for a very difficult learning environment for those kids," said principal Ben Macumber, who noted some pockets of the school are air conditioned.

This district represents also two different cultures, Kuehl noted, the stark growth of the North Liberty region with the more rural communities that have housed the schools in Amana and Oxford for decades.

"They want schools in each of those communities to keep that identity," said Macumber of how the district considers Amana and its role to serve students on the district's less populated western edge.

While the referendum passed with ease, there was a notable split based on precinct, with North Liberty voters supporting it with 93% and Amana precinct voters only at just above 60%.

"The message that we're trying to send is that it helps everybody," said Kuehl. "The need for space is concentrated on that east side but I think our board made a wise decision in committing to that community elementary concept," said Kuehl.

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