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Iowa City Hoover demolition on Nov. 5 ballot

Case over district's handling of 2017 referendum goes before Iowa Supreme Court

Hoover Elementary School, 2200 E Court St., in Iowa City, Iowa, on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Hoover Elementary School, 2200 E Court St., in Iowa City, Iowa, on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City voters will be asked Nov. 5 whether they want the school district to demolish the former Hoover Elementary School after the 2018-19 school year.

Wait. What?

You might ask: “Why is the community still arguing over a building no longer serving elementary students?” Or: “Isn’t the 2018-2019 school year already passed?” Or you might say: “Surely they aren’t considering tearing down that beautiful new Hoover Elementary opened in 2017?”

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said he expects the ballot issue will be confusing to some voters.

“I’m sure we’re going to be fielding a lot of questions when it gets closer to the election about why it’s back on the ballot,” he said.

The Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case against the Iowa City Community School District over whether the district should have held a public vote in 2017 on demolishing the former Hoover, at 2200 E. Court St.

The Iowa City school board decided in 2013 to close Hoover as part of a master facilities plan that called for upgrades at schools across the district. Voters approved that $191 million plan in September 2017.

Residents who opposed the Hoover closure got enough signatures on a petition to certify a ballot question and wanted it on the September 2017 ballot. But the district did not forward the question to the county auditor, according to a 2017 lawsuit filed by Heather Young, Del Holland and Blake Hendrickson.

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Days before the 2017 vote, Johnson County Judge Sean McPartland ruled the district illegally had dismissed the petition, and he ordered the district to put the question on the next regular election ballot. That election is Nov. 5.

Gregg Geerdes, representing the plaintiffs, argued Wednesday before the Supreme Court that the school board violated the law by not giving voters the ability to direct the “sale, lease or other disposition” of school property through a certified referendum.

But Andrew Bracken, an attorney for the district, said “disposition” isn’t the same thing as “demolition,” and the school district is the party that must decide what happens to the school.

The Supreme Court will consider the case and issue a written opinion at a later date.

Some in the community may have moved on after Hoover “graduated” its last elementary students in May and a new Hoover school was opened, but some residents may want to see the former Hoover remain. This fall, the building is being used for Tate High School students displaced by an expansion at their school.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Weipert said.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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