116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – Iowa City school board members said Tuesday night they want a committee studying the need for a new high school to look at alternatives other than building a new school.
The board did not set aside the district's longstanding commitment to eventually build a third comprehensive high school, but it did put more of the focus on at least exploring other options.
“There are lots of ways to utilize the space we have, and we have a lot of space,” board member Karla Cook said.
The district's high school study committee, made up of administrators and high school and junior high school personnel, has been studying a variety of questions related to a new high school.
The current thinking is the school would be in the North Liberty area and have a capacity of 900 students. That would be well below the capacities of City High, at 1,600, and West High, 1,700.
Among the issues the committee is considering is what it would cost to build and operate such a school and what courses and extracurricular offerings it would have.
The committee's report is to be finished no later than August.
The school board asked the committee to also consider the impact a new high school would have on the existing schools and alternatives to building a new school.
Jeff McGinness offered as an example opening a magnet school rather than a comprehensive high school. He also wanted to know what effect the regional education center being planned would have on enrollment.
He stressed that he wasn't advocating for not building a new high school but rather wants other options to be considered.
The district's current policy is that once three-year projections estimate that high school enrollment will surpass 3,750 students, and actual sixth-grade enrollment is between 900 and 925 students, the district will start budget, design and boundary work for a new school.
McGinness said the latest projections have that happening when the current kindergarten class is in sixth-grade.
Board member Sarah Swisher said it seems like the district spends a lot of time planning for something that gets farther and farther down the road.
“It is becoming a … frustration for the community,” she said.
City High in recent years has been under capacity and West High overcrowded. This year, City High has about 1,420 students. West High has 1,925.