116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids school board wants to dig deeper in to how repurposing McKinley STEAM Academy — currently a middle school — could affect the students it serves and its surrounding community.
Repurposing McKinley is part of a proposed facility master plan for middle and high schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The plan hinges on voters approving a $312 million bond issue, possibly in a September vote.
“I feel that this is an underserved population that repeatedly expresses transportation obstacles,” board member Jennifer Borcherding said. “I don’t want to add more barriers for students to achieve graduation. I think we need to have more thoughtfulness in our approach.”
“You are moving a middle school out of a community that looks different from some of our other communities,” board member Marcy Roundtree said. “One concern is a lot of these kids walk to school” — about one-third, district officials say — “and removing their middle school that’s easily accessible right now is going to change up a lot.”
The proposal from a facility master plan committee — made up of school officials and community members who have been meeting for almost two years — is for McKinley to be repurposed as City View Community High School, the district’s first magnet high school to be opened by fall 2023 for hands-on learning. Magnet schools create a special area of study. It also could house the district’s alternative high school Metro, currently at 1212 Seventh St. SE.
The new magnet school opens this fall, though a location — which would be temporary under this plan — has not been announced. The bond referendum does not include the cost of repurposing McKinley into a magnet school.
Almost 500 students attend McKinley, 620 10th St. SE, and the school is one of the most diverse in the district. The student body is made up of almost 28 percent Black students, 9 percent two or more races and 8 percent Hispanic or Latino. Sixty-four percent of students at McKinley are economically disadvantaged.
One of the main goals of the master plan is to reduce the number of middle schools in the district to provide more equitable services. This would create a feeder system from middle school to high school and it would reduce operational and maintenance costs.
About 32 percent of Cedar Rapids school buildings “don’t get used that we pay to maintain every day,” director of operations Jon Galbraith said in the board meeting.
The district has about 3,300 middle school students with the capacity for 4,200, Galbraith said. In the last six years, the district has lost about 1,400 K-12 students.
Wilson Middle School
The committee also is further studying whether to demolish Wilson Middle School and build a new middle school in its place — which is what was initially proposed — or renovate the existing building. The initial cost estimate to build a new 600-student school on the Wilson site is $60.8 million, according to board documents.
The school board authorized Galbraith to move forward with getting a proposal to repurpose Wilson, including a cost estimate that Galbraith said is “favorable.”
Renovation or construction on the Wilson site would begin spring 2027 and be completed by late summer 2029, according to an anticipated timeline.
If the bond is approved, the debt service portion of the district’s property tax levy — which is currently zero — would increase to $2.70 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. The owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would see a tax increase of about $23 per month, or $280 per year for 20 years, according to board documents.
A timeline for the proposed plan
Under the plan, a new middle school is proposed for the north side of Cedar Rapids with capacity for 1,200 students — an increase from the typical 500 to 800 students. The land could be purchased as early as this fall, according to an anticipated timeline.
The new middle school would begin construction in spring 2025 and could be completed by May 2027.
The pools at Kennedy, Jefferson and Washington high schools would be closed and a new aquatic center built to serve all three. This would not only create additional space in the schools but reduce the cost of maintaining all three facilities, officials say. Construction could also begin in spring 2025 and be completed by late summer 2026.
Renovations are planned for other Cedar Rapids middle schools.
Renovations at Franklin Middle, 300 20th St. NE, would begin in late winter 2027 and be completed by summer 2029. Taft Middle, 5200 E Ave. NW, could be renovated and an addition would add capacity for up to 1,200 students. Construction on this project would begin late winter 2028 and be completed summer 2029.
Franklin and Wilson middle schools would feed into Washington High; Taft and Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy would feed in to Jefferson High; and the new building on the north side would feed into Kennedy High.
The plan also proposes Harding Middle School, 4801 Golf St. NE, be repurposed with community input. Galbraith said the city of Cedar Rapids may have an interest in the building because of its location next to Noelridge Park.
Kennedy, Jefferson and Washington high schools would be maintained with improvements, including new turf practice fields, updating Kennedy High’s cafeteria and kitchen and updating the gym and locker rooms at an alternative high school Metro.
The majority of these projects would be made in 2024. Updates to Metro High’s gym would be completed in 2025, and Kennedy High’s activity area would be under construction during the 2026-27 school year.
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