Staff Editorial

School-city committee will meet in the open, and that's good news

Ann Heubner (left), a teacher at Hiawatha Elementary School, talks during a Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Ann Heubner (left), a teacher at Hiawatha Elementary School, talks during a Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

There’s some good news on the government transparency front.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart and school board President John Laverty have agreed a new committee made up of city and school leaders will open its meetings to the public. The 10-member committee, with three members of the school board, three council members and staff from the city and district, will focus on the possible effects of the district’s far-reaching, 20-year school facilities plan.

Under the current $223 million plan, eight elementary schools would close, 10 would be replaced by new, larger schools and three would be remodeled. Closed elementary buildings would be repurposed.

The plan’s implications for the city’s core neighborhoods are enormous, so formally bringing together city and school leaders makes sense. In particular, the committee must address what will happen in neighborhoods where elementary schools are closing, and how those facilities might be redeveloped for new uses.

It’s cooperation that’s welcome and long overdue, given the overlapping issues, challenges and concerns regularly faced by the council and board.

And it’s imperative for the public to have access to these discussions, and a chance to weigh in. We were critical of the process that produced the facilities plan, a path that led through too many closed-door meetings and too few opportunities for public input. Some city officials also raised concerns. Opening these committee meetings provides an opportunity for putting the process back on a transparent track.

We hope the new committee, which will make recommendations to the school board, will hold its meetings in the neighborhoods affected by changes, and at times when residents can attend discussions. We hope those residents will be invited to join the discussion in a meaningful way, and we challenge them to show up, share their ideas and be heard.

Superintendent Brad Buck and board members promised to pursue an open public process going forward after board members approved the facilities plan. So far, so good.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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