K-12 Education

Hoover Elementary parents want clarity on reasons for, consequences of, closing the school

Campaign to save school has raised more than $3,000 so far

Students make crafts in Judy Jenkins Pre-K class at Hoover Elementary School in Iowa City on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.  (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Students make crafts in Judy Jenkins Pre-K class at Hoover Elementary School in Iowa City on Tuesday, February 10, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The planned closure of Hoover Elementary School no earlier than the 2017-18 school year will affect students there earlier than that due to possible teacher turnover, parents said Tuesday at a meeting with two school board members.

The school, 2200 East Court, Iowa City, has been designated for closure since 2013, when the Iowa City Community School District’s school board approved the district’s 10-year facilities master plan.

But parents and Iowa City residents who live near the school have lobbied the board in recent months to keep the school open, or at least further consider the implications of the plan to close it. A campaign to reverse the closure plan and increase awareness about the issue, called “Save Hoover,” has raised more than $3,000, said Chris Liebig, a Hoover parent and one of the organizers.

At the meeting Tuesday — organized by another parent group, the Hoover Advocacy Committee — parents said they were frustrated by what they felt was a lack of clarity from the district. About 60 people attended, including board members Chris Lynch and Orville Townsend.

“I can accept Hoover closing,” said Mary Kate Pilcher Hayek, a member of the committee. “I just want to know more about why it’s closing.”

Teachers have been given mixed messages about where they will work when Hoover closes, parents said, and some could look for other jobs before that to avoid the uncertainty.

“I think the top concern is retaining the current quality of the Hoover teachers,” said Melanie Sigafoose, a past president of the school’s parent-teacher association. “Giving teachers the incentive to stay, as long as Hoover is open.”

Parents said they also are unclear on the benefits of closing the school and what will become of the land it now occupies.

Closing the school makes business sense considering projections of declining enrollment there, its proximity to other elementary schools and the efficiencies to be gained by operating larger elementary schools, said Lynch, the school board president. Closing Hoover also could free up land for nearby City High School, he said.

The school board in April approved an update to the facilities master plan that does not affect Hoover but includes revisions to the plans for several other schools. The plan outlines spending $1.5 million total on already-completed building code repairs and air conditioning at Hoover, as well as its eventual demolition.

But the new schools the plan calls for — some of which would be built further from the city’s center — send the message that the district is “giving up on the inner core of the city,” said Tom Carsner, an Iowa City resident.

“When you make decisions to put schools on the edge of town, you are encouraging sprawl and growth out there,” Carsner said.

Lynch said that’s a false dichotomy.

“You’ve never seen an investment like right now. You’ve never seen a school board commit to more investment in inner Iowa City than this school board right now,” he said, referring to the renovations outlined in the facilities plan. “There’s no reason that the schools on the outside of town need to take away from the schools on the inside of town, if we can drive growth across the district.”

The district is planning to go to voters in 2017 with a referendum on a significant general-obligation bond issue that would fund many of the projects outlined in the facilities plan.

The discussion comes months before a September school board election in which four board members are up for reelection and four non-incumbent candidates already have declared their candidacies. The Save Hoover campaign plans to publicize the candidates’ positions on the issue, Liebig said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8204; andrew.phillips@thegazette.com

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