Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why would Iowa City voters support this?

This tweet was County Supervisor Rod Sullivan’s reaction to the school board’s recent decision to cancel the planned additions that would have added 150 seats to Longfellow School and 180 seats to Horace Mann School. The additions would have increased the number of kids you could put at Longfellow by 58 per cent and at Mann by 76 per cent.

As I wrote last week, I disagreed with Sullivan’s support for the closure of Hoover School, which is about as far from a “bargain,” grand or otherwise, as you can imagine. But I agree with Sullivan that voters should be very concerned about the district’s treatment of central Iowa City.

I do disagree, though, about what supporting central Iowa City should mean. For example, I don’t think putting a 417-kid school at the busy corner of Dodge and Church Streets, on the smallest lot by far in the district, is a way of supporting the Horace Mann neighborhood.

To me, supporting the central core of Iowa City means standing up to administrators who want elementary schools to either be super-sized or be closed. It means recognizing that what is possible in outlying areas is not always possible or desirable in areas that are more densely populated or have smaller lot sizes. It means investing in all our existing elementary schools, not pitting some of them against others.

Sullivan is right that under the latest version of its facilities plan, the district is removing elementary capacity from the densely populated central core of Iowa City and building it instead on the outskirts. It’s as if the district is simply lifting Hoover School out of its affordable, close-in neighborhood and plunking it down in a pricier neighborhood on the edge of town. To drive the point home, they’re even naming the new school Hoover, and acting like that’s a gift to the people whose school they are taking. I have no idea why voters would support that and no reason to think they will.

I have no problem with planning for anticipated growth, but there is no reason to do it by closing schools in areas that are already densely populated. If you want to support central Iowa City, you can start by not closing its elementary schools.

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