Iowa City School District Changes Plan for Hoover

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Hoover Elementary School, the focus of much debate in recent months, would remain open as a traditional school longer than planned, but it still eventually would close under a proposal released by the Iowa City Community School District Thursday.

A couple of new elementary schools also had their open dates shifted in an updated timeline for the district's $258 million, 10-year facilities plan. An initial plan was unveiled last month. The school board is to review, and could vote on, the plan at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The timeline will determine how the facilities plan the school board approved this summer will be implemented. It includes a new high school, three new elementary schools and construction projects at existing schools to make room for a projected 3,000 more students over the next decade and to upgrade older buildings.

As the facilities plan was being drafted earlier this year, district administrators said building new schools without closing what they considered less efficient ones would require cuts elsewhere.

The school board picked Iowa City's Hoover Elementary for closure, which spurred controversy and became a major campaign issue in the September school board election.

The district had been planning to use Hoover as a "swing" school from 2016-21 to house students while their schools underwent renovations. Under the revised proposal, Hoover would remain open as a traditional school until the end of the 2018-19 school year, when it would close for good.

"The reasons for all of the changes are the feedback (Superintendent) Steve (Murley) received from the board ... . I'm sure they listened to their constituents," said David Dude, the district's chief operating officer.

Construction of a new east Iowa City elementary school would be moved up so it could open in fall 2017 to serve as a swing school for two years. The opening of a new North Liberty elementary school would be pushed back a couple years to fall 2019, and it would be a swing school for one year.

At 500 students each, the new elementary schools will have about double the capacity of the schools that use them in the transition periods, so some of the neighborhood children could start at those schools right away, Dude said.

Hoover initially was proposed as the swing school because it would be cheaper than using a new building, Murley has said. The cost of not doing that is only slightly more expensive, Dude said, but he did not immediately have that figure Thursday.

A new 1,000-student north high school is scheduled to open in fall 2017 to hold West High students during construction there. It would become its own school, so to speak, in fall 2019.

A 500-student addition would be done three years later.

To help pay for the projects, school officials expect to seek voter approval in 2017 for a bond issue that could approach $120 million.

Boundaries likely will need to be redrawn several times over the next decade, but that plan has not yet been updated from what was shared last month, Dude said.
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