IOWA CITY — As cranes worked in the background, administrators, board members and students of the Iowa City school district officially broke ground Tuesday at the site of the district’s newest elementary school.
Hoover Elementary School, at American Legion and Barrington roads, will serve about 500 students starting in the 2019-20 school year. Construction is set to finish by fall 2017, and the facility will be used as a temporary home by Longfellow Elementary and then Lincoln and Mann elementaries during their renovations in the interim.
Hoover is the next step in the district’s 10-year facilities plan. The board approved the plan in 2013.
Since then, a controversy has swirled around plans to close the Hoover Elementary at 2200 E. Court St. Parents and residents pushed back against the district’s efforts by creating a “Save Hoover” political action committee and lobbying for candidates during the last elections.
The name for the new school was chosen by a committee about two years ago, district spokeswoman Kristin Pedersen said, and the current Hoover Elementary’s situation has little to do with the new one.
Advocates for the original Hoover also said the new school won’t affect their efforts.
“I’m not so worried about the name,” said board member Chris Liebig, who was elected in September with Save Hoover’s support. “If they decide to change their minds about keeping Hoover open, we can easily come up with another name.”
Save Hoover Chairwoman Erin Kaufman echoed that sentiment. The district has growing capacity needs, she said, and those should be met.
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“Members of the original or old Hoover committee have never seen it as an either-or,” she said.
Liebig said he still thinks the original Hoover could avoid closing. Upcoming decisions, including redistricting and a bond issue, could be the occasion to bring the issue back up, he said.
“This whole long-term planning, it’s a good thing to do, but anytime you’re planning something six, seven, eight years out, you’ve got to be flexible with it,” Liebig said.
Kaufman said she’ll hold out hope until the original Hoover’s doors actually close.
“There’s still a lot of time between now and 2019,” she said. “ And we’re such a strong cohesive community — one thing I’d like to make clear is that we’re still here.”