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Van Allen school to be expanded

Four new classrooms will serve 100 additional students

IOWA CITY– Paintings by Van Allen and Penn Elementary School students on the walls of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) school board meeting were a colorful backdrop as Superintendent Stephen Murley and the board held brief discussions during an equally brief meeting on Jan. 28.
The board held the second of three readings of Appendix 9 , the ICCSD capital projects planning and approval process document that guides the board in its oversight and implementation of the district’s facilities master plan. The long-range plan was adopted on July 23, 2013, and proposes to spend an estimated $252 million on capital improvement projects during a 10 year period. Included in the plan is an addition to Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty.
Following the formal meeting, the board’s Operations Committee met, and began with an update on the Van Allen design project by representatives of the architectural firm Neumann Monson and Van Allen Principal Pat Brown.
On Dec. 17, 2013, the Iowa City school board approved a project design expenditure of $123,250 for Van Allen. The design was to include additions to the current structure, containing four classrooms to house approximately 100 additional students. A committee of staff volunteers worked with Neumann Monson during the design development phase of the project. Three schematic designs were evaluated, with a final preference for additions to existing pods two (on the East side of the building housing Kindergarten through second grade) and three (on the West side of the building housing grades three through six. The design would create about 5,600 square feet of new space and fall within the approved budget of $1.68 million.
Principal Brown explained the criteria the committee developed for the addition.
“One of the things we’d like to do is to continue, as much as possible, is (keeping) like grades together so that we can group our first grades together, second grades together. Our teams do a lot of collaboration in their planning and delivery of instruction. It works much better when we keep those grades together,” she said.
Brown said another important criterion was flexibility of classroom design.
“We are anticipating growth in the North Liberty area. And as we’ve seen with enrollment, kids don’t always come to us in neat packages with the numbers just right as they move up through the grades. (The additions) could give us growth on both sides of the building.”
“We will have additional classroom space to meet student instructional needs in a positive learning environment,” said Brown in an email after the meeting.
Current enrollment at Van Allen for K-6 is 489 students. In addition, the elementary school also serves 27 preschool students. Projected enrollment for the year 2022-2023 is 527 based on the school’s current attendance area.
According to Brown, there are plans to rezone the attendance areas in North Liberty and Coralville beginning this spring. Additional students will likely be zoned into the Van Allen Elementary attendance area to help with projected elementary population growth.
“North Liberty enrollment projections for the school-aged population taken from the U.S. Census (2000-2010) shows an increase of 122 percent. Coralville increased 29 percent,” said Brown.
Van Allen Elementary School was Iowa’s first LEED certified public school. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of greens buildings intended to help building owners be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently. Van Allen received a silver LEED certification, and features natural lighting, recycled building materials, geothermal heating and cooling, and natural landscaping. Neumann Monson expects to preserve LEED certification with completion of the project.
The board will hold a public hearing on the final project design in April. Once the design is approved, Neumann Monson expects the bidding documents to be prepared for distribution to contractors by April 24, and returned by May 16. Construction is to begin June 1, with a construction completion date not later than June 30, 2015.