Education

#7 Plan to close, rebuild C.R. schools goes forward despite funding uncertainty | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

District hopes for extension of state's penny sales tax

Summer McMurrin and other meeting attendees hold up petitions with over 600 signatures Jan. 22 calling for the board to delay its vote on the facilities plan during a meeting of the Cedar Rapids school board. The board voted to approve the facilities plan, and now is working to implement it despite funding uncertainties. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Summer McMurrin and other meeting attendees hold up petitions with over 600 signatures Jan. 22 calling for the board to delay its vote on the facilities plan during a meeting of the Cedar Rapids school board. The board voted to approve the facilities plan, and now is working to implement it despite funding uncertainties. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Community School District plans to close eight elementary schools, with the first shuttering in fall 2021, but funding for a new facilities plan remains elusive.

Sculpted around an extension of a state penny sales tax, the ambitious facilities plan is set to close eight elementary schools, raze and rebuild 10 others and remodel the remaining three.

The tax, known as SAVE — Secure an Advanced Vision for Education — sunsets in 2029. Cedar Rapids educators, along with others across the state, are asking legislators to extend the tax by 20 years so they can continue to use the funds for facilities work.

Using the sales tax, school districts can finance expensive building work — such as erecting new schools and demolishing others — without calling for a public vote.

Without an extension of the sales tax, Cedar Rapids officials have said they would consider raising property taxes to finance the projects. To increase the property tax levy to pay for bond financing, 60 percent of school district voters would need to approve.

But the Cedar Rapids school district still is betting that facilities work can begin on schedule, starting with a new Coolidge Elementary School in the southwest quadrant. The district has said community input sessions about how best to build a new school on Coolidge’s site will be held in January.

If the plan is funded, new schools would be built over the span of two decades on the sites of Coolidge, Arthur, Cleveland, Erskine, Harrison, Hoover, Jackson, Pierce, Wright and Johnson.

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Harrison Elementary’s rebuilding comes with “renovation considerations,” and Grant, Hiawatha and Viola Gibson schools would be renovated.

The district’s plan would close Garfield, Grant Wood, Kenwood, Madison, Nixon, Taylor, Truman and Van Buren schools.

• Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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