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Save CR Heritage petitions school board to preserve Garfield Elementary

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cindy Hadish with Save CR Heritage says the goal is not just to preserve the historic building that is Garfield Elementary—”Ideally, we would keep these schools open because it’s important to the neighborhood to have them.”

According to the Facilities Master Plan for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Garfield Elementary is scheduled to close. The plan includes moving students to a new, larger school that will be constructed in 2024. It will be on land where Arthur Elementary School’s annex sits, and it will house children from Garfield and Arthur elementary schools.

Save CR Heritage gathered collected 597 petition signatures to put Garfield’s closure on the CRCSD School Board meeting for May 9. Hadish says the petition helped raise awareness of the closure. “People move into the neighborhood thinking, ‘Well, my kids can walk to school.’ That’s why they moved here. We’ve talked to a lot of people in this neighborhood when we were getting our petitions signed. Some people didn’t even know the school was being closed. Parents didn’t even know the school was being closed.”

Alexis Clymer lives within walking distance of Garfield. She is considering holding back her son’s start to school because of the school’s closure. “My oldest’s first year of kindergarten, he would start school at Garfield and then when they would be going through the transition his second year. But he would be turning fresh 5 his kindergarten year so we might just wait until he’s six and then he’ll just start at the new school.”

Alisa Sharp has a fifth-grader at Garfield Elementary. She had not heard of the closure until she was approached to sign the petition. “Just sitting here, parked like we normally do, pick up our kids, and there’s a lady walking. She was like, ‘Would you like to sign? I don’t know if you’re aware, the school is closing,’ and I didn’t even know the school was closing until she told me that, so I was kind of surprised by it.”

Despite the petition signatures, the closure did not make the school board’s agenda for May 9. According to the relatively new law that allows voters to petition their school boards, a board must address a petition at its next regular meeting or at a special meeting held 30 days from when the petition was received.

A release from Save CR Heritage said the petition was given to the school board a week from May 9.

While the closure was not on the agenda, one school board member did bring it during the Monday night meeting. Dexter Merschbrock asked the board to table selecting an architect for the new school. “My worry is that by moving forward by the selection of an architect for the Arthur project before we hear from the public regarding the related petition, we are signaling that that meeting isn’t meaningful to us as a board and I think that would be the wrong message to send.”

After his comment, the board did vote “yes” on the selection of an architect.

The school board did publicize its plan to close some district elementary schools. A series of community input sessions in March were a part of that plan.

EDITOR’s NOTE: A previous version incorrectly stated the schools that would feed into the new elementary building slated to be built on the site of the Arthur Elementary Annex. The article is now correct to reflect that building will serve students who currently attend Arthur and Garfield Elementary Schools.

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