Saturday, April 25, 2015

Elephant in the room

The eight writers of the letter described here are upset that the school board has cancelled the additions that it had planned to build on Longfellow, Mann, Lincoln, and Shimek schools, arguing that the decision shows a lack of commitment to the central core of Iowa City. “If we continue on the current course,” the letter argues, “we risk losing more of our core elementary schools, which would have devastating effects on our goal to strengthen the core of the city.”

I agree that the district shouldn’t reduce elementary school capacity in central Iowa City. But it would be easier to agree with this letter if the writers objected to the one school closure that the district is actually planning—Hoover. (My apologies if they do, but there is no mention of it in the coverage.) What do the writers have to say about supporting central Iowa City neighborhoods in that instance?

If these writers don’t oppose the Hoover closing, they are not only being inconsistent, they are undermining their own cause. There is no logical way to wall off Mann, Lincoln, Shimek, and Longfellow from the rationale for the Hoover closure. Even the idea of closing Hoover to benefit City High can apply to other schools, too, since any savings in operational costs could always be redirected to the high school. If Hoover should be closed for the greater good, why shouldn’t other, even smaller schools be closed, too?

Supporting the central core of Iowa City should mean keeping its schools open, not closing some and supersizing the others. If the district were to close Horace Mann but make up for it with large additions to Longfellow and Shimek, would these writers feel that central Iowa City was being supported?

By the way, a neighbor called me when this article appeared. “Eight people?” he said. “Almost nine hundred people signed the petition to keep Hoover open!”

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