Cedar Rapids school district looking for feedback as master plan gets underway

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - By just walking in the gym at Coolidge Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, you can see hints of the age of the building, down to the athletics record board with records still standing from the 1960s.

Coolidge Elementary held an open house on Sept. 16, 2019, to invite the public for feedback on what its replacement will look like. (Mary Green/KCRG)

In that time, thousands of students have come through the school, including both of Scott Drzycimski’s, the younger of whom is currently in fifth grade.

"Coolidge and the impact that it's had on our family is huge,” Drzycimski said.

But after all those years, the school is in need of an update.

"The buildings are old, and they need help,” Noreen Bush, interim superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, said.

Coolidge is the first school that will be knocked down and rebuilt as part of the school district’s Facilities Master Plan, which was passed by school board members in January 2018.

The plan separates all 21 current elementary schools into three phases. According to the initial plan, 11 of those schools, including Coolidge, will be rebuilt, three will be renovated, and eight will close.

However, Bush said the plan is fluid, and the school district is taking it phase by phase, and step by step within those phases.

Work is expected to begin on the new Coolidge in spring 2020 and wrap up by fall 2021.

After that construction starts, the school district will start planning to rebuild Jackson Elementary, incorporating what it learned from the Coolidge process.

"We have to consider, what are our successes, what are we learning through that process, and how might that impact the next new building of Jackson?" Bush said.

Then it’ll turn to Truman Elementary, which is expected to close at this point. But Bush said that isn’t final yet.

"As we anticipate what our needs might be, we're open still to that question, but we would anticipate Truman potentially closing at this point in time,” Bush said.

Bush said the total cost of Coolidge reconstruction is budgeted at $23.5 million, which will be covered by Iowa's Secure and Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, funding.

In 2023, the school district expects to start on Phase 2, and then it will shift gears to Phase 3 by 2027.

With the focus still on Coolidge right now, the school held an open house Monday night to invite the public for feedback on what its replacement will look like.

Even though Scott Drzycimski's family will be gone from Coolidge by the time the new school opens, he said its success will still affect him.

"If your schools are not up to the caliber of the competition, businesses are going to go other places," Dryzcimski said. "So, purely from an economic development standpoint, for our community, having new schools is important."

The school district said it needs feedback like that as soon as possible.

"Because when the ground breaks, we have a pretty good idea of what the building is going to look like,” Bush said.

The district will hold a second community feedback session for Coolidge Elementary on Sept. 25 at NewBo City Market from 6 to 8 p.m.