CRCSD School Board moves forward with putting $220 million bond on ballot

The Board is moving toward a two-phase plan with a $220 million bond question for this November and a likely request for another $225 million six years from now
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 10:27 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Monday, the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) Board of Education decided to push ahead with putting a multi-million dollar bond referendum on the ballot this November. The district would use the money to renovate, replace, and redesign the district’s middle and high schools.

Nancy Humbles, a member of the CRCSD Board of Education, said at Monday’s special work session, “The time is right to move forward.”

The referendum had originally been for $312 million, the largest in the state’s history. At a meeting with Cedar Rapids’ City Council July 26, the School Board presented a plan in which they would ask voters to approve two separate bond referendums. The first would be for $220 million and would go on the ballot this November. The second would be for $225 million and could go to voters in 2029.

At that Wednesday meeting, City Council members expressed concerns about the parts of the district’s plan that would close middle schools on the west side of town.

“I absolutely want to support the shiny new school in the fancy district where all the growth is, and I want to make sure we are not giving up, which is frankly, if I’m being—frankly, giving up on our city schools,” said Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell.

At their work session following that meeting, Board members said they heard city leaders’ concerns, but they also reiterated their own dilemmas: some schools are outdates, under-utilized, and losing money.

“Our resources follow the students,” said Dr. Tawana Grover, CRCSD Superintendent. “Where our students are, that’s where the resources follow.”

“You’re losing millions of dollars each year when you’re not operating at capacity,” Grover added.

The question of where students are is more one of where students will be. Toward the end of Monday’s meeting, Board members discussed what to do with Taft and Roosevelt Middle Schools, the changes for which would come in Phase Two. Board members said waiting to decide what to do with these schools would allow them to see what would happen with city growth and if there would be the student population needed to “justify” leaving Roosevelt.

The School Board is looking to approve the language of the bond during their next meeting, August 7. They’ll then have to hustle and get about 6,400 signatures by September 22 for the referendum to make it onto the ballot in November.

They acknowledged they’re facing a tight timeline, but they also said they are done with delays.

“There will always be reasons we should wait, but I believe the time is now,” said Marcy Roundtree, another member of the Board.

The plans to renovate and change the district’s middle and high schools is the second part of the district’s Facilities Master Plan. The first part tackled the district’s elementary schools and is already underway.