Education

Linn-Mar's $55M bond to address crowded schools goes to vote

District's most crowded elementary is 15 percent over capacity

Kindergarten teacher Polly Monaghan gives instructions to her class Friday at Indian Creek Elementary School in Marion. This classroom was converted from a student support room and is smaller than others. The Linn-Mar district has its largest kindergarten enrollment ever at 630 students, while 490 are in the senior class at Linn-Mar. District residents will vote Tuesday on a $55 million bond referendum. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Kindergarten teacher Polly Monaghan gives instructions to her class Friday at Indian Creek Elementary School in Marion. This classroom was converted from a student support room and is smaller than others. The Linn-Mar district has its largest kindergarten enrollment ever at 630 students, while 490 are in the senior class at Linn-Mar. District residents will vote Tuesday on a $55 million bond referendum. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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MARION — Linn-Mar’s most crowded elementary school no longer has space for its oldest students, relegating them to a pair of “portable” classrooms in the parking lot.

Inside Indian Creek Elementary, a computer lab has been converted into a classroom, as has a room that used to be used for one-on-one student tutoring.

Come lunchtime, multiple classes try to navigate the hallways of the school — which district officials say is at 115 percent of its capacity.

Many schools in the Linn-Mar Community School District are crowded, district spokesman Matthew May said, but here “they feel it the most.”

A $55 million bond issue on ballots Tuesday would finance construction of two new schools in the district, which district officials hope would alleviate crowding at all of its elementary and middle schools.

The bond issue would increase Linn-Mar’s property levy rate to about $18.02 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, a $69 annual increase for the owner of $200,000 home, according to the district.

Polling places in the district — which includes areas of Marion, Cedar Rapids, Robins and rural Linn County — are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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Residential development in the district has sent enrollment soaring in recent years. There are 140 more incoming kindergartners than graduating high school seniors this school year.

It’s an influx of students the district cannot accommodate without building more schools, officials have said.

If approved by 60 percent of voters, the bond would be used to build schools for the fifth and sixth grades — taking a fifth-graders out of elementary schools and sixth-graders out of middle schools.

“It’s a very important first step in addressing capacity districtwide,” May said.

But even with two additional school buildings that would open in fall 2020, some Linn-Mar schools — including Indian Creek — will remain at or above capacity, May said.

District officials hope an existing penny sales tax for school infrastructure, known as SAVE, is extended by Iowa legislators next session. Linn-Mar would use that money to build an additional elementary school.

“That’s when we would see more relief at this school in particular,” he said.

The district schools that have reached capacity are Indian Creek, Oak Ridge Middle and Bowman Woods Elementary. Without the bond, May said projections show Westfield and Echo Hill elementaries also would reach capacity.

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

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