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Bond vote likely for CCA in 2020

District to propose two options for continued space crunch in January

OXFORD– Residents in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District will likely be asked to approve another bond issue next September as the ongoing enrollment increases continue to max out the available classroom spaces.
The district last sought voter approval to issue bonds for construction projects in 2017 in the amount of $36 million, which were used to build Oak Hill Elementary School in Tiffin, expand parking at the middle school/high school campus in Tiffin, pay for HVAC and security upgrades at Amana Elementary, fund a new gymnasium for Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford and a second expansion of the high school. The projects from the 2017 bond are scheduled to be completed in 2022.
However, by 2023 the district will again be facing a severe shortage of elementary space, CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl explained to the district school board of directors during a work session on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the administrative offices in Oxford.
The district’s administrative team came up with two options to provide additional elementary instructional space. However, both require voter approval for the district to take on additional debt through the issuance of general obligation (GO) bonds to pay for the projects.
The district could add additional classroom “pods” to North Bend Elementary (NBE) in North Liberty, Tiffin Elementary (TE) and Oak Hill Elementary (OHE). The schools were built in a somewhat modular fashion with pods consisting of six classrooms, a common space and office/workroom areas. Doing so would provide CCA with a total elementary capacity of 2,565 at an estimated cost of $16 million.
Or, the district could build a new 600-student elementary school at an estimated cost of $25 million. Kuehl noted the district would have approximately $28-29 million in bonding capacity in 2023, which would make either option possible financially.
While the pods are less expensive, NBE Principal Brenda Parker pointed out, at least in her case, one pod will not be enough to accommodate the anticipated growth and not permit her building to go to the desired pre-K-fifth grade configuration. It was a lack of space at NBE and TE which prompted the district to build Oak Hill and make it a fourth- and fifth-grade building. The district has a preference for pre-K-fifth grade elementary buildings, but population growth, particularly on the east side of the district, made that an impossibility.
Parker stated she would need at least eight classrooms but a pod is only six. Parker also said adding a pod to all three buildings would be a temporary fix at best, saying they will undoubtedly fill those spaces, as well, and again be in need of even more space. She said a new elementary school would provide “more bang for your buck.”
Middle School Principal Brad Fox acknowledged $16 million would be more attractive than $25 million but, “We’re looking at the budget, but we also need to look at what’s best for the kids.”
“Whatever we do, it won’t be the last elementary project,” Kuehl said in response, and clarified with the district’s debt capacity and debt limit it was an either-or proposition.
Additional concerns regarding the pods were brought up in the ensuing discussion including reiterating insufficient instructional space, continuation of pre-K-third grade configurations for NBE and TE, a lack of space for preschool needs, and the potential need for additional ancillary facilities such as additional parking, the need to expand the kitchen and lunchroom areas, and even more playground equipment being necessary; all of which means even more dollars.
A new elementary school, however, would provide a longer window of capacity, Kuehl said. A site for such a building has not been identified, but the district did recently purchase land just east of the administrative building along Highway 6 near Oxford, and purchased land in Tiffin across the highway from the high school. Also, the City of Coralville expressed interest in locating an elementary school in the West Land Use Area between Highway 965, Interstate 380, Highway 6 and Forevergreen Road. At some future point, an elementary school could also be located in the northwestern part of North Liberty. One certainty however is any new school, and even the addition of pods, would lead to redrawing attendance area boundaries, a task the district last undertook in 2014.
The district will host a public information meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the middle school starting at 6 p.m.