By Eric Hawkinson
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Members of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) board of education agreed Tuesday night to make haste on plans and discussions for redistricting.
The district, one of the largest in the state, is experiencing growing pains in many of its aging schools and is in the process of creating a course of action for its $250 million facilities plan.
“Southeast [elementary] is bursting at the seams,” board member Jeff McGinnis said.
McGinnis was the key voice for speeding up discussion over redistricting to carry out recently-approved policy in the facilities and phasing plans, but perhaps more urgently, to help alleviate overcrowding in some of the district’s 24 schools.
Board president Marla Swesey and member Sally Hoelscher agreed with McGinnis and encouraged superintendent Stephen Murley to move forward with redistricting as quickly as possible. Murley was less eager to move forward and spoke for many parents who believe they will not have sufficient time to prepare for the move. He said the discussions should be held in the spring.
“It’s an integrative process that involves community members, parents and staff, other effective community members, and that process takes time,” Murley said. “That’s something we want to do right.”
Still, the board wanted to see action out of the school administrator as some members feared that inaction over redistricting could have an effect on the recently adopted diversity policy, which the district hopes with equally distribute free and reduced lunches throughout its schools.
“I’m just uncomfortable going yet another year without making any progress towards this,” McGinnis said.
He encouraged imposing stricter deadlines for redistricting, and an attempt to get it done as soon as possible. Murley said is not impossible, but finalizing the phasing plan should take precedence over redistricting.
“We really do have to set a priority,” he said.
The phasing plan is necessary for beginning construction on the district’s new elementary schools, and the new North Liberty high school.
West High School student, Akash Borde addressed the board to say that students at West are dealing with over-crowding everyday.
“I’d like to see you start construction on the new high school soon,” he said. “Some of my friends in North Liberty have a 40 minute commute.”
The board took no definitive action at the meeting, and agreed to make a decision at the next session on Oct. 22.
An entirely non-contentious item discussed was the work of Any Given Child Iowa City, a project affiliated with the John F. Kennedy center for the performing arts in Washington, D.C., that aims to provide artistic opportunities for all students K-8.
Hancher Auditorium supports the project, and superintendent Murley said the new arts program is poised to benefit ICCSD students’ education. More information can be found at the website, anygivenchildic.org.