OXFORD– The facilities committee tasked by the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School Board of Directors to explore options for dealing with the district’s continued enrollment growth took a major step toward making a recommendation.
After forming in October, the committee looked at a scientific study of where growth is occurring, and what the future likely holds. The data backed up what even a casual observation shows: the eastern end of the district, particularly in the North Liberty and Tiffin areas, is growing, and will continue to for the next decade or so. It also showed an enrollment wave moving through the elementary schools and set to hit the middle school. The committee also has looked at student capacities at the district’s existing buildings.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the committee met for a brainstorming session. The members, along with participants from around the district, were encouraged to keep four key points in mind. Suggestions were to be instructionally sound; minimize disruption to families and students; be cost effective; and offer a long-term solution.
“Let’s put our ideas out there,” Middle School principal Brad Fox said. Moderating the discussion, Fox asked the group, “What would we say are our (the district’s) needs?” He reminded those assembled of the CCA’s unique problem of dealing with continued growth while many other districts are closing schools due to declining enrollment. “People (from other districts) don’t feel sorry for us when they hear about our problems,” Fox said.
After some time spent in pairs discussing the issues, a lengthy list was compiled. Among the identified needs were: space at the Middle School and Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford, decreasing transportation across the district, a bigger gym at Oxford, better utilization of Amana Elementary (AE), a central campus in Tiffin, strengthening the identity of each community in the district, a bus barn, new central office for the district, a community-accessible recreation building, relocating the softball complex to Tiffin, an auxiliary gym at the high school, and an emphasis on college preparedness with a corresponding adjustment in the buildings to facilitate an increase in learning.
Participants then ranked their top three priorities from the preceding list, which was tacked up on several large sheets of paper on the Clear Creek Elementary (CCE) cafeteria wall. After the colored dots used to mark selections were counted, increasing space at the Middle School was the number one priority with increasing space at CCE and North Bend Elementary (NBE) the obvious second.
A second round of brainstorming, dedicated to compiling a list of possible options ensued after a short discussion about the middle school. A multi-year plan for renovation and expansion was drawn up by Shive-Hattery in May 2010 with the first phase already implemented (removal of an attached structure called “the brown building,” as well as replacement and upgrading of plumbing in the main building). If all phases were completed, the plan would add 24 classrooms and six science labs. Combined, the school would have a capacity of 600 students. Keith Johnk of Shive-Hattery described the ultimate outcome as, three wings, with one wing per grade.
Johnk acknowledged that based on more recent data, some adjustments to the plan would be necessary to what was an approximately $17 million project then. It now would likely be more along the lines of a $20 million effort. Johnk was asked point-blank if it would be worthwhile to renovate the existing middle school or if it would be better to build a new structure. Johnk defended renovation, pointing to the many extras such as separate band and vocal music rooms and two gyms, thanks to having originally been the high school. A new school, even without these amenities, would be at least a $20-24 million project, said Johnk.
The group let the architect’s words sink in as they again paired-off and pondered options to propose. The stated goal all along has been to ensure that all ideas would be heard, and people were encouraged to think outside the box.
Reconfiguring grade levels in the current buildings and building new structures was a common theme among several proposals. Other suggestions included shrinking the district by cutting the boundary line back to I-380 and dropping Amana altogether. Another thought involved building a junior high, and one participant suggested constructing a high school in North Liberty. It should be noted that advantages and disadvantages were not actively discussed during this session, neither were the practicality, cost, legality or feasibility of individual suggestions.
The committee is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, March 6, in the cafeteria of CCE in Oxford with a 6:30 p.m. start time. It is expected the committee will begin the process of whittling down the plethora of suggestions at that meeting. Agendas and minutes are available on the committee’s webpage: http://www.cca.k12.ia.us/admin/facilitycommittee.html .