116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - The College Community School District released new renderings this week to celebrate one year since voters passed a bond issue financing a fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school.
Voters in the district on March 3, 2020, approved with 84 percent of the vote a $54 million bond sale. Since then, the district has navigated through a pandemic and a derecho that damaged some school property.
Passage of the bond allowed the district to complete a 10-year facilities plan. Construction on the intermediate school will begin in May.
The building is expected to have the capacity for 1,200 students, divided among eight 'neighborhoods” within it; two gyms and art, music and media centers.
The district serves 5,800 students from Linn, Benton and Johnson counties.
Jennifer McDonnell, principal of Prairie Creek Intermediate School, has been an integral part of the planning process - down to where an electrical outlet might be located in a classroom, she said.
The current building, 401 76th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids, has 950 students enrolled and they use 'every nook and cranny,” McDonnell said.
'Right now, we couldn't hire more teachers if we wanted to,” McDonnell said. 'There's nowhere to put them. This number of classrooms will give us a chance to grow the student population and staffing.”
Teachers now have to be intentional about managing small daily tasks like when to give students restroom and drinking fountain breaks, so that there aren't too many students crowding the hallways, McDonnell said.
In the new building, each neighborhood will have its own facilities, and more time can be focused on learning.
Superintendent Doug Wheeler said he feels proud of the progress the district has made on its facilities plan while also navigating a pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho.
'We're getting the exact vision we set out to with that bond,” he said.
Although the district currently is seeing a decline in enrollment of about 110 students, the project still was needed '300 to 400” students ago, Wheeler said.
Across the state, districts are seeing a decline in enrollment, which is being blamed on the pandemic. Before this year, the district's enrollment rose 50 to 70 students each year since 2009.
Buildings can either enhance or detract from the great things students and teachers are doing, Wheeler said.
'When many members of our community were in elementary school, their home base was the classroom,” Wheeler said. 'Flexible seating, collaborative spaces for students to work and classrooms for privacy are the direction we're moving” with the neighborhood concept.
After the intermediate school is completed, the current building will be converted into a building for ninth-graders and the district's alternative program, Prairie Delta.
Wheeler said ninth-graders could move into the building during the 2023-2024 school year.
Tom Hughes is a parent of three students in the district and a member of the Facilities Advisory Committee.
'The fifth- and sixth-grade building is the crown jewel of the bond,” Hughes said. 'As Prairie continues to grow, the challenge is making sure students feel like it's still a small, personalized learning environment.”
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