Education

City Council pursuing agreement with Cedar Rapids schools

Nancy Humbles, Cedar Rapids Community School District Board Member, gives opening comments during a Gazette forum on the school district’s facilities plan in Whipple Auditorium at the Cedar Rapids Public Library on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Nancy Humbles, Cedar Rapids Community School District Board Member, gives opening comments during a Gazette forum on the school district’s facilities plan in Whipple Auditorium at the Cedar Rapids Public Library on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — City staffers will continue working with the Cedar Rapids school district on an agreement tied to the district’s sweeping facilities master plan, which calls for the eventual closure of eight elementary schools in the city.

The school board approved the master plan Monday night, and on Tuesday evening the City Council authorized staff to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the school district.

The city’s goal is form a task force that would focus on studying each school site and developing a plan for redeveloping or reusing any closed school “in a manner that enhances the character and vibrancy of our core neighborhoods.”

The study also would include issues of accessibility, safety, enrollment, demographic and development trends, historical assets and neighborhood character.

There is no timeline for finalizing the memorandum of understanding, but City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said it may occur over the next month or so.

The agreement will come back to the council for final approval.

The school district’s facilities plan calls for:

• Building 10 new elementary schools — Arthur, Cleveland, Coolidge, Erskine, Harrison, Hoover, Jackson, Pierce and Wright, with renovation as an option at Harrison.

• Renovating three elementaries — Grant, Hiawatha and Viola Gibson.

• Closing and repurposing eight elementaries — Garfield, Grant Wood, Kenwood, Madison, Nixon, Taylor, Truman and Van Buren.

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The plan has an estimated cost of $224.2 million and would be funded by the 1 percent state sales tax for schools — called SAVE — and relies on the tax being extended beyond its 2029 expiration.

The first schools up for consideration are Coolidge in 2019; Jackson in 2020; and Truman in 2021.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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