IOWA CITY– In 2009, a board-appointed high school task force came up with a recommendation to build an additional high school when it is financially feasible to build and operate one. The students are almost there, but finances are up for debate.
So the district has tinkered with school boundaries and changed its high school enrollment rules, trickling students out of crowded neighborhoods.
The issue is the old battle of the boot between rival high schools City and West. City High, with steadily, slowly declining numbers, is just under capacity. West High, which draws from western Iowa City, North Liberty and Coralville, has had more growth than eastern Iowa City.
West High was just over its 1,800 capacity, at 1,860 last year.
The last time City had more students than West was in the 1999-2000 school year when City High had 1,602 and West 1,586, for a total enrollment of 3,188. Since then, West has had a steadily rising enrollment.
But the total for the two high schools together is still under the enrollment numbers the ICCSD board set to put in motion the pre-construction phases of another high school.
The district set another trigger point– 900 students for sixth-grade enrollment– to begin the actual budgeting and layout of the new campus. In 2010-2011, the ICCSD sixth grade class was 851; the fourth grade class was 899; and the second grade class was 919.
A 2009 plan designed by Northwest Junior High Principal Gregg Shoultz puts the high school in North Liberty or the north Coralville area and an “NLHS” opening in 2015-16. Shoultz estimated an 800-student school, fed by North Liberty schools, could open as Class 3A and would cost about $1.8 million to operate annually.
The 2009 18-member task force was comprised of representatives from the affected cities and the Iowa City Area Chamber, high school principals, members of the District Parents’ Organization, and one parent and one student representative.
The latest ICCSD fourth high school committee will begin its initial phase of study in 2012. The group will consist of ICCSD school staff this time.
The new committee will be led by Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldman with principals and staff from three junior and two senior high schools and two teachers and two guidance counselors from the two larger high schools, City and West.
Feldman said they’ll look at what an 800 to 1,000 student building would look like and visit similarly-sized schools to see what amenities and construction costs are available.
She said the committee wouldn’t cover the boundary lines, location or timeline of the project and would file its final report to the board in August 2012.