The Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) Board of Education (the Board) has several guiding principles. We believe in investing in student achievement, empowering innovative learning environments, valuing equity in our culture and being good stewards of tax payer dollars. By operating under these guidelines, we have developed an atmosphere in which our high schools are listed among the top in the state, in which we celebrate over 30 languages spoken in our schools and through which over 350 of our teachers have taken teacher leader roles.
We are a community school district and value being a good community partner. We have more than 100 collaborations with area businesses, nonprofits, agencies and local organizations. We are dedicated to promoting the best learning opportunities for our students and staff, and by extension, to value the needs of the residents of our community which includes Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Palo, Robins and much of rural Linn County.
In an effort to be proactive by looking at a 15- to 20-year time horizon for our facility needs and the ever-increasing pressure on sustainable funding streams, the Board asked Superintendent Dr. Brad Buck to engage a community Facilities Master Plan Committee. This committee consists of 85 educators, community stakeholders, business leaders and students who have been meeting over the past year. Although the committee has made no formal recommendations to the Board, periodic updates from the committee have been shared over the past year, most recently following their Oct. 24 committee meeting. This update included consideration being given to having 10 new elementary schools each consisting of 600 students and renovating three current schools which currently hold about 500 students each (e.g. the size of Viola Gibson Elementary).
It was shared with the Board that consolidating elementary schools and building new facilities could occur on existing school sites. Consolidation would produce a savings that could be reinvested into the education of our students, enhance staff collaboration opportunities, and provide more stability to maintain lower class sizes. It also will allow all our schools to be ADA compliant, energy efficient, able to optimally support 21st century technologies and create more inviting learning spaces. It is recognized that some of our existing structures hold architectural significance and as such discussion to incorporate them into the recommendations has been considered.
The Board has directed Superintendent Buck to focus on the “Secure an Advanced Vision for Education” (SAVE) tax as our funding source. SAVE is an existing 1-cent state sales tax designated only for school infrastructure and technology. Using this funding source requires no additional local property tax increase. We also have encouraged the committee to explore opportunities for collaboration with the City of Cedar Rapids for multiuse space sharing options, ideally reflecting the neighborhoods in the community, as was done at Harrison Elementary and the Northwest Recreation Center.
The Board values collaboration and knowledge sharing as vital tools for growth. The committee has and will continue to examine information gathered through online surveys and the public input sessions. We invite you to further join the conversation at any of our upcoming public forums each held 6-8 p.m. at the following locations: Monday, Nov. 6, Jefferson High School band room; Wednesday, Nov. 8, Kennedy High School band room; and Thursday, Nov. 9, Washington High School cafeteria.
The Facilities Master Plan Committee will take into consideration information generated from the input sessions before making final recommendations to the Board at the Dec. 11 board meeting. The Board will take the recommendations under advisement with final determination anticipated to be made at the Jan. 22 meeting. Any final determination will reflect the Board’s dedication to providing an environment for Every Learner to be Future Ready. Additional information can be found at www.cr.k12.ia.us/departments-services/reimagine-re-envision-and-reinvest/. Thank you for supporting our students now and for years to come as we Reimagine, Re-envision, and Reinvest in our schools!
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• Signed by the members of the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education: President John Laverty, Vice President Nancy Humbles, and directors Mary Meisterling, Jennifer Borcherding, Rafael Jacobo, Gary Anhalt and Kristin Janssen.