Open enrollment for Polk students a potential problem for parents, care providers

Transportation to other schools could be problem for many Polk families

Polk Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, December 17, 2011. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Polk Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, December 17, 2011. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

A plan to allow some Cedar Rapids students to open enroll might cause a transportation tug-of-war for parents and caretakers.

Cedar Rapids Superintendent Dr. Dave Benson gave his recommendation to the school board Monday night on how to handle the district's declining enrollment. He recommended shutting down Monroe's early childhood center and Polk Elementary School.  It's a decision many parents and students had been anticipating for nearly two months.

Benson proposed closing Polk Elementary and giving current Polk students a choice between nine elementary schools: Erskine, Grant Wood, Arthur, Garfield, Nixon, Johnson, Wright, Taylor and Kenwood.

However, the district’s transportation study, Management Partnership Services Inc., did not factor the open enrollment option into their report.

Tim Ammon, who headed up the report, says the study only focused on getting Polk students to Arthur, Garfield or Johnson Elementary.  Benson said he made the open enrollment decision at the last moment after reading comments and feedback from parents.

Catherine Techau is a foster mother of four running an at-home day care next door to Polk Elementary.

"There's a whole bunch of us in this neighborhood, and we all take care of these kids. We have for years,” Techau said.

Transportation is one of many concerns now facing Polk parents like Andrea Johnson, who currently doesn't have a car.

"I’d say in the summer, about 80 percent of parents walk their kids to school,” said Johnson. “It's going to be a huge issue for a lot of the people who live in this area don't have regular transportation, they walk their kids to and from school."

Under Benson's recommendation, five of the schools current Polk students can enroll in are outside the district policy of a two-mile walking distance: Kenwood, Erskine, Wright, Taylor and Nixon.

"If I've got three or four kids going to three or four different schools depending on where their home is, it's going to be utter chaos,” said Techau.

Techau doesn't know what's going to happen to her daycare should Polk close.  She says she's more concerned about many of the at-risk families and students -- many of whom only thrived because of Polk's leadership, she said.

"It's very traumatic for all of us,” she said, “It's going to be a sad day for our whole family."

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