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Temporary solution

IOWA CITY– Van Allen Elementary uses theirs to store PTO supplies. Penn Elementary has three units for classes. After an inventory last week by Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) administrators, five were found that could be shuffled and used for classrooms at Penn, Lemme, and Grant Wood schools.
The five portable classrooms were deemed underutilized in their current locations and possibly bound for the three packed elementary schools in 2013-2014.
After a recommendation on May 8 to the superintendent for no changes to elementary and junior high school boundaries from the Attendance Zone committee, the administration inventoried the so-called temporary buildings around the district as a possible way to meet the needs of rising enrollment.
The semi-mobile classrooms were floated by Superintendent Stephen Murley as a quick-fix alternative to changing school boundaries and redirecting the flow of students from overcrowded K-8 classes to ones with open seats.
The committee had presented several scenarios for public discussion, each tweaking school boundaries for elementary and junior high schools.
The administration decided to keep all K-8 boundaries static save one possible adjustment for residents of Lake Ridge neighborhood, who are being surveyed about their preferences after being shifted from Hills to Twain, and now may go back to Hills again.
At the May 15 board meeting, Murley added Lemme to the committee’s recommendation as another likely destination to use the portable classrooms to address crowded Penn and Wood Elementary schools.
Penn’s current portable configuration houses all three sections of second-graders and a shared space for music, orchestra, and band in two single units and a double unit. The two single units have been in use for over a decade and the double unit for several years.
Murley said the older, single-unit portables might be pulled out for another double unit or two.
Penn was built in 1961 and the last addition to the main building was in 1994.
Murley also said he thought North Central Junior High would be overcrowded in two years.
The committee’s report states that “additional capacity will be needed in the very near future, given enrollment projections for the area,” but that “moving students between Penn, Garner, Van Allen, and Wickham would not solve the overcrowding for more than a year.”
The committee recommended that another elementary school be built on the north side in the next two years, and stressed the need for a long-range facility plan.
School board member Tuyet Dorau voiced concern with the static boundaries proposed by the administrative team. Dorau said she thought the school boundary maps were going to have to be more dynamic to accommodate student population changes, but a motion to accept the recommendation passed unanimously.
The committee held four public forums on elementary and junior high attendance zones.
Murley’s recommendation to the board outlined the first next step in the process to address population shifts within the schools, a short-, medium-, and long-range facility plan that would require:
“…a decision from the board that affirms prior board votes to build a third comprehensive high school or directs the administration to take appropriate actions at the existing high schools to accommodate anticipated growth.”
On May 15, he added, “We need a process that allows us to deal with the ebb and flow” of student population.
Although often mentioned in the elementary and junior high redistricting discussions, a separate committee will work this summer on the same task for a high school redistricting recommendation.
And a third comprehensive high school task force is examining the cost of building and operating what would be the fourth high school in the ICCSD system, a 900-student building that is often tied to addressing the recent population growth in the northern part of the district. Their findings will be presented to the board in June.
The next ICCSD facility meeting is scheduled for June 19, the next regular board meeting is June 5.