Education

Deal calls for joint input between Cedar Rapids school and city officials on school closures

Elected officials to serve on Cedar Rapids advisory panel

The new Educational Leadership and Support Center for the Cedar Rapids Community School District at 2500 Edgewood Road NW will replace support buildings damaged in the 2008 flood. Photographed on Monday, March 19, 2012, in northwest Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The new Educational Leadership and Support Center for the Cedar Rapids Community School District at 2500 Edgewood Road NW will replace support buildings damaged in the 2008 flood. Photographed on Monday, March 19, 2012, in northwest Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Members of the Cedar Rapids school board and the City Council would meet regularly to discuss “the long-term viability of the community’s core neighborhoods” as the school board oversees the closures of eight elementary schools, under a proposal on Tuesday’s council agenda.

A memorandum of understanding between the city and the school district would create a committee of 10 — three members of City Council, three School Board members, two city staffers and two school district employees — to “provide input” to the Cedar Rapids school board.

The pairing of city and school officials comes as the district nears the beginning of a nearly two-decade process that will impact all of its 21 elementary schools, and after some city officials raised concerns over a lack of involvement in developing the sweeping plan.

“The desire is to more formalize continued discussions with the school district,” said Jennifer Pratt, the city’s community development director. The committee’s goal is “making sure that there’s just good discussion and a holistic look at the neighborhoods, as the master plan is implemented.”

The group’s city representatives would be appointed by Mayor Brad Hart and subject to council approval, while school board President John Laverty would appoint school representatives, according to the memorandum.

A spokeswoman for the city said it does not yet know if the committee meetings will be open to the public.

With a majority of the six elected officials, the group would make suggestions to the school board after analyzing characteristics — accessibility, historical assets and economic conditions, among others — of neighborhoods losing a school.

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The committee would establish goals, objectives and evaluation criteria before January 2019, when the district begins to implement its master facility plan.

The first steps of the plan include the razing and rebuilding of Coolidge Elementary and the closure of Truman Elementary in the northwest quadrant.

The facilities plan won unanimous approval from the board’s seven members in January, despite public outcry. Its cost is estimated at $223 million and was not subject to a public vote.

It was developed by a committee of school employees and community members, which included Cedar Rapids city staff, but faced criticism for a perceived lack of public input.

Now-council member Dale Todd was a member of the committee, but resigned shortly after his election because he disagreed with the direction of the committee.

The plan will see 10 elementary schools razed and rebuilt, three remodeled and the remaining eight closed and “repurposed.”

The schools slated to close under the plan are:

• Garfield, 1201 Maplewood Drive NE

• Grant Wood, 645 26th St. SE

• Kenwood Leadership Academy, 3700 E Ave. NE

• Madison, 1341 Woodside Drive NW

• Nixon, 200 Nixon Drive, Hiawatha

• Taylor, 720 Seventh Ave. SW

• Truman, 441 West Post Road NW

• Van Buren, 2525 29th St. SW

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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