Iowa City diversity policy response short on details

Implementation process 'still in its infancy,' district official says

Iowa City High School students wait to board school buses at the end of the school day Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, in front o
Iowa City High School students wait to board school buses at the end of the school day Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, in front of the school in Iowa City. Opponents of the Iowa City Community School District's proposed new diversity policy say the measure will result in more kids being forced to be bused to City High as opposed to attending Iowa City West. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

One month after board members approved the policy, Iowa City Community School District administrators responded to the Iowa Department of Education's request for additional information on the contentious diversity plan.

The document outlines who will develop implementation and the scope of the data used to move forward with the plan, which aims to spread out the populations of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches throughout district schools, but specifics on how the plan will take shape are still sparse.

"I recognize that some of this does not provide a lot of detail, but the Diversity Plan is fairly newly adopted and the implementation process is very much in its infancy," reads the response, signed by Joe Holland, attorney for the Iowa City schools.

According to the district's letter, administrators cannot develop a detailed implementation plan for the policy until they receive a completed facilities report and enrollment projections.

On the eve of the board's final vote, department officials called the policy illegal because it may allow students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches – a measure of used to indicate economic status – to be identified, thus violating federal law. Ann Feilmann, chief of the bureau of nutrition and health services for the department, then requested the district provide additional information about the plan by March 8.

Iowa Department of Education officials replied to Iowa City schools administrators Friday and did not request specifics, but will continue to monitor the district as it develops the diversity plan.

"We appreciate that the Iowa City school district provided an initial response to us in a timely manner and we look forward to receiving more information on how the district plans to comply with the law," said Staci Hupp, chief of the bureau media and communications services for the Iowa Department of Education. "We remain committed to working with the school district to find a way to meet its goals while also ensuring that families who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches are properly protected under federal law."Gazette reporter Gregg Hennigan contributed to this report.

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