Education

Work begins on new Clear Creek Amana classrooms

Newstrack: School to meet enrollment growth expected by fall 2019

Students line up in the hallway during a class change at North Bend Elementary School in North Liberty on Monday, May 7, 2018. The new school in the Clear Creek Amana School District will have the same design as North Bend, which has one central hallway with learning “pods” that branch out from it. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Students line up in the hallway during a class change at North Bend Elementary School in North Liberty on Monday, May 7, 2018. The new school in the Clear Creek Amana School District will have the same design as North Bend, which has one central hallway with learning “pods” that branch out from it. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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Voters in the Clear Creek Amana School District approved a $36 million bond question by a 71 to 29 percent margin last September.

The bond extended the district’s property tax rate of about $16.95 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value.

The night of the referendum, Superintendent Tim Kuehl said the bond would help Clear Creek Amana — which includes areas of North Liberty, Tiffin and rural Johnson and Iowa counties — brace for the district’s exploding student enrollment.

“This really sets the stage for us to be able to move forward to meet the needs of our students,” Kuehl said in September. “You never know what’s going to happen in that situation, and we knew we were going to need something with our enrollment going the way it’s going.”

The district’s plan for the additional funds was to build an “upper elementary” school to relieve student growth at its Iowa City metro area elementary schools, Tiffin Elementary and North Bend Elementary.

The bond also was set to pay for repairs to existing elementary schools, a new gym at Clear Creek Elementary, a remodel of the middle schools’ access drive and an addition to the high school.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE

Land bordered to the east by Interstate 380, just north of the I-80 interchange, has been leveled over the last few weeks and the Clear Creek Amana Community School District held a groundbreaking ceremony on the site Monday.

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“Here we go again,” said Kuehl, who has overseen the construction of a new elementary school and additions to the district’s middle and high schools in the past four years.

Where is Clear Creek Amana's new school?

The new school for fourth- and fifth-graders is set to open for the 2019-2020 school year and has a budget of $18 million, Kuehl said.

The new space will be a welcome relief for elementary schools in the district, including North Bend Elementary in North Liberty. The school is Clear Creek Amana’s most crowded, with an enrollment of about 465 but space built for 400, Principal Brenda Parker said.

“We figured it would grow quickly, but it was just — boom,” she said. “And then it was too late to catch up.”

The school’s kindergarten through fifth-graders have taken up space originally planned as a teachers’ lounge, three part-time educators share one small teaching space and the school hasn’t had space for a preschool in years — which Parker said has been a “major detriment” for the community and school.

“All of our nooks and crannies are taken,” Parker said.

When the new upper elementary school opens a couple miles south of North Bend, Parker said she will be sad to see her older students move. But she looks forward to having a school that can accommodate all of its students.

The school is so crowded now, she said, that some students have to wait an extra 30 minutes before they can go home at the end of the day. School bus drivers have to take one busload of students home first, then circle back to school for the next group once the bus has emptied.

The new fourth- and fifth-grade building “will relieve some of the pressure,” Kuehl said at the groundbreaking. “It will just be a better education for all our kiddos.”

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The new school, which will be visible from the interstate, will have a similar design to North Bend and Tiffin elementary schools, Shive-Hattery architect Tandi Brannaman said.

It will have one long hallway as the school’s spine with shared spaces — such as the library and front office — in the center. The new school’s gym, additionally, will double as a storm shelter built to withstand a strong tornado.

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

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