Mount Pleasant community pushes back against school district’s purchase of parts of Iowa Wesleyan

The Mount Pleasant School District's purchase of part of the shuttered Iowa Wesleyan University campus is drawing criticism among some in the community.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 5:31 AM CDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (KCRG) - The Mount Pleasant Community School District’s purchase of part of the shuttered Iowa Wesleyan University campus is drawing criticism from some in the community.

Close to 100 people were at a school board work session Monday night.

One man who took the mic during public forum said to the School Board, “My question is, just because something’s a bargain, you buy it?”

In May, Iowa Wesleyan closed after nearly 200 years in the community. The Mount Pleasant Community School District (MPCSD) bought practice fields on campus for $115,000 and the central part of campus for about $1.1 million.

Officials said the chapel could provide an auditorium and other buildings, like Howe Student Activity Center, could be spaces for district offices.

“We bought a $15 million gym for pennies on the dollar,” said Chuck Andrew, a School Board member.

However, many members of the public at Monday night’s meeting had questions about the value of the purchase.

“To me, it sounds like you’re going to buy [the buildings] just to save them,” said one woman.

There were concerns about the expense the district would bear in owning and maintaining century-old buildings, but many comments Monday evening had to do with what Superintendent John Henriksen said was just a vision at this point.

“What if we could bring our kids, all of our elementary kids, to that campus?” said Henriksen. “It has been visioning, it’s been discussion, visioning, what could be.”

Creating a campus for all the elementary students in the district is a controversial idea in this area.

“Do you think that by sticking all them kids together, that’s going to better the education,” asked one parent.

District officials said, right now, the idea for a centralized elementary location was just a vision, one that would only happen if the community was behind it.

“I will never forget that we’re a community school district,” said Henriksen.