IOWA CITY– The facilities semi-finals began early Wednesday evening– four scenarios entered the boardroom, and in a late heat, two emerged as the favorites.
The Iowa City School District (ICCSD) Facilities Steering committee narrowed its list of scenarios to address the district’s growing student population Wednesday, June 19, after a thorough four-hour meeting full of workshops, SMART board quizzes, careful deliberation, and even occasional banter. The scenarios chosen were 1D and 4C, with the committee’s preference for 1D, both of which call for a third high school in the North Corridor.
Committee members used subject-specific quizzes, hand-held buzzers, and an interactive response system to help them narrow between the various scenarios into a recommendation that will ultimately face a vote by the Iowa City school board. With general consensus on a third high school ranging from 1,400 to 1,600 in student-size, committee members agreed on changes to junior high feeder schools. All plans are expected to take place over the next 10 years.
North Central Junior High in North Liberty is one of those schools. It will serve as the main feeder to the proposed third high school and, in both scenarios, may see expansion in order to house larger enrollment.
“North Central would be expanded as much as is necessary to feed that high school,” said Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “We’ve pretty much come to a consensus on that across the board.”
Sullivan said everyone has his or her own idea about where the new high school should be, but there is no specific location planned out at this time.
The committee is not in agreement on other topics such as what to do with Lincoln and Hills elementary schools. Scenario 1D seeks to rebuild a school in Hills, and restore Lincoln; scenario 4C seeks the closure of both.
Some community members in attendance felt uncomfortable with the committee’s approach in shortening the list of scenarios. One parent, Janet Clark, said she thought the committee was struggling with the task at hand.
“While I appreciate the committee’s work, I am not sure their collective opinions are representative of our community,” Clark said. “Tonight it felt to me like they were a bit lost discussing details and changes to the scenarios which haven’t been endorsed by the community at large.”
Another parent, Paul McLaughlin, said he felt the scenarios do not reflect true public input. He was also troubled by the committee’s methods of attaining data and believes the scores for the administrative workshops need to be weighted correctly.
“The statistician in me is just cringing at the way they crunch those numbers,” he said.
McLaughlin said the committee is concerning itself with statistics that have to do strictly with how the building is educationally adequate, not how the facility, with its staff and students, is educationally adequate.
“That’s a big difference in my mind,” he said. “It’s almost as if the numbers can be fudged and made up, and be just as accurate.”
Sullivan sensed the public atmosphere during the meeting and said he understands that some people are upset with the way the committee is moving forward.
“I feel as though there is some tension between public opinion and what the staff and experts want, but you’re always going to have some of that,” he said. “By and large the committee has agreed on most things and come up with recommendations that are going to be acceptable to most of the public.”
The school board will mull over the outcome of the district’s 10-year plan at its meeting on July 9, where the committee will present both scenarios. Although this was the facility steering committee’s final meeting, the board will continue to discuss more changes over the next month.
“I would advise people to pay attention and make sure that they are OK with what’s being proposed,” Sullivan said. “And if not, weigh in.”