Cedar Rapids Schools moves to ask voters for $312 Million Bond

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 4:14 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids Community School District plans to ask voters to approve the largest school bond in state history: $312 million dollars to pay for a comprehensive plan to renovate, replace and redesign its middle and high schools.

The School Board reviewed the final draft of the plan at a work session Monday night that calls for a March 2023 bond vote. A task force has been working on it since last September, focused on meeting shifting enrollments with future population growth. The 10-year plan envisions renovations at the high schools, including a new aquatic center, as well as an overhaul of its middle schools - including building two new buildings and closing three current middle schools.

Here’s the highlights of the plan:

  • Condense the current 6 Middle Schools to 4:
    • Build a new, 1,200-student middle school on the north side of the district.
    • Renovate Franklin, Wilson, and Taft Middle Schools - eventually fully replacing Taft and possibly replacing Wilson with a new building on the same sites.
    • Closing and repurposing: Harding, McKinley, and eventually Roosevelt Middle Schools
  • Changing the middle school feeders:
    • The new middle school would feed Kennedy High School
    • Franklin and Wilson would feed Washington High School.
    • Taft and Roosevelt (until Roosevelt closes) would feed Jefferson High School.
  • Building a new $19.35 million shared aquatic center, similar to how Kingston Stadium is utilized.
    • The district says this is cheaper than the $27-$30 million cost to renovate the current pools at three high schools
    • It also sees this as an opportunity to host tournaments, potentially bringing in tourism revenue for the area.
    • This also opens up space in the high schools by allowing them to close and renovate their pool areas.
  • All four high schools would undergo renovations.
    • Adding common spaces and turf athletic fields in three high schools
    • Renovating and expanding Kennedy’s Cafeteria and Kitchen
    • Updating the gym and locker rooms for Metro

This bond would mean an extra 2.70 increase in the property tax rate - that would mean an extra $133 on a $100,000 home. The district argues it is needed and overdue as it looks to keep pace with opportunities and learning environments at neighboring school districts.

Even with the increase, the property tax rate in Cedar Rapids would sit at $17.41 per $1,000 valuation. That’s lower than the current rates in Linn-Mar, Marion, Center Point Urbana and Mount Vernon.

The Cedar Rapids School District has not asked for a bond since 2000. It points out neighboring Linn-Mar has gone to voters 4 times in that period, totaling $94.5 million approved. College Community voters have approved $149.5 million with five votes since 2006.

The district also points out the renovations will allow it to save millions in expenses on maintaining older buildings in the district - some are more than 100 years old and have been repurposed over those years.

The district is still organizing community meetings with city leaders, staff and the public to detail the plans, take feedback and answer questions. It’s set up a website to detail the entire facilities master plan.

The Middle and High School proposal comes as Cedar Rapids is in the midst of an overhaul of its elementary buildings. That plan condenses elementary buildings by replacing several smaller, outdated schools with new or renovated larger buildings. The latest, Maple Grove Elementary, opened to students Tuesday as a replacement for Jackson Elementary. West Willow opened last year, replacing Coolidge Elementary. That plan does not use any bond money, relying instead on state funding called SAVE.