Thursday, December 12, 2013

Update, December 12

As expected, the board voted to adopt the facilities phasing plan, including the Hoover closure, at its December 10 meeting. The plan would keep Hoover open serving its own attendance area until 2019, when it would close. Board member Tuyet Dorau voted against the plan. Board member Chris Lynch made an effort to get the board to reconsider the Hoover closure, but when it was clear that there were not enough other votes to do so, voted in favor of the final plan. The other board members, Marla Swesey, Sally Hoelscher, Jeff McGinness, Patti Fields, and Brian Kirschling, voted for the plan as well.

The board agreed that the plan would be revisited every December.

Efforts to save Hoover will now focus primarily on the 2015 school board election. The four board members whose seats expire in 2015 – Swesey, Hoelscher, McGinness, and Fields – all supported moving forward with the Hoover closure. Given the results of this past election and the community’s consistent opposition to closing schools, we are optimistic about the prospects for change in 2015. Saving Hoover will take patience and persistence, but we have no shortage of either.

The petition to keep Hoover open now has over 860 signatures, and will continue to grow. Thanks for your continuing support!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Update, December 5

To read and sign the petition to keep Hoover open, click here.

The school board will vote this Tuesday, December 10, on whether to adopt the proposed facilities time line. The current proposal would not use Hoover as the transitional space for other schools when they are being renovated—which is a big improvement over the original proposal. (Thank you to the 328 people who signed our petition on the issue!) Under the current proposal, Hoover would continue to serve its own attendance area until 2019, when it would close. The building would then be torn down, apparently to create space for tennis courts or a softball field that might be displaced by the addition to City High (though the superintendent has not ruled out a parking lot). Details of the proposed time line are here.

At the board’s work session last week, it became clear that at least four board members—Marla Swesey, Sally Hoelscher, Jeff McGinness, and Patti Fields—would not support amending the plan to keep Hoover open. Those are the same four board members whose seats come up for re-election in 2015. Board members Tuyet Dorau and Chris Lynch questioned the need to close Hoover. (Further commentary is here and here.)

Over 700 people have now signed the petition to keep Hoover and all of our schools open. (That includes over 300 signatures online and another 400 on the paper copies that have been circulated.) We hope to reach 800 signatures by Tuesday’s meeting. Please consider signing if you haven’t already.

Finally, please continue to make your feelings about the Hoover closure known to the school board. You can email the entire board at board@iccsd.k12.ia.us. A summary of some good reasons to keep Hoover open is here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Good reasons to keep Hoover open

It is urgent that you contact the school board (email the entire board at board@iccsd.k12.ia.us) to express your support for keeping Hoover Elementary School open. Even a very brief email will help convey the depth of opposition to the closure. Here are some good reasons to keep Hoover open:

1. There is no compelling reason to close Hoover. The board and superintendent has never identified a compelling reason for the closure. Minimizing operating costs is not a sufficient reason to close Hoover; nor is creating additional parking or field space for City High.

2. The City High addition does not require the closure of Hoover. Though the district initially said that Hoover needed to close for the City High addition to be built, the superintendent’s proposals have made it clear that the addition can be built while Hoover is still open. The addition to City would add only twelve classrooms, six of which will go on top of the existing building, and would not increase City’s enrollment at all – yet the district claims that City needs the entire Hoover property as a result. It’s now clear that the closure of Hoover has no bearing on whether the City addition can be built.

3. Although it passed a very detailed long-term facilities plan, the school board is still unable to say what the Hoover property will be used for. Neighborhood residents very reasonably fear that the property will become a parking lot for City High, or that their elementary school is being closed simply for the sake of keeping tennis courts or softball fields on-site rather than off-site. The bare minimum of transparency requires that the district identify how the property will be used before closing a school.

4. The board has not explored alternatives to closing an elementary school. The board could explore purchasing land near City High to accommodate any displaced softball field or tennis courts. An athletic field could also be relocated to Mercer Park, where some City facilities are already located. All of these options could be far less expensive than tearing down Hoover and rebuilding its capacity elsewhere, yet none of them has been explored. The board should not close an elementary school simply to keep a high school athletic facility on site rather than a short distance away.

5. At every opportunity – in the district’s survey, in the community workshops, and in the school board election – the public has expressed strong opposition to closing schools. It is short-sighted and unsustainable to enact a major facilities plan that does not have public support, especially since the plan depends on the voters’ approval of a $120 million bond.

6. It’s been less than a year since the voters approved the Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) to give the school district authority to spend tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues. Voters were told that the RPS would enable renovation of older buildings and new construction, not that it would lead to school closures. The district should follow through on the expectations it raised in the RPS campaign.

7. The superintendent’s proposal would close Hoover before we know whether the district will need its capacity, and before we know whether the public will approve the bonds for new construction. This is counting chickens before they are hatched. If the bond fails and Hoover has already been closed, one of the major goals of the facilities plan – to alleviate overcrowding – will have been defeated.

8. Even if the rest of the plan goes forward, the district may need Hoover’s capacity to accommodate enrollment growth as well as preschools and special programs. The district is struggling to build new capacity fast enough to keep up with projected growth. As enrollment continues to grow, the district can’t afford to lose a school that can hold over three hundred kids.

9. Closing Hoover is very expensive. To close Hoover, the district has to spend millions of dollars to rebuild that capacity elsewhere – for a net gain of no new capacity at all. Given the number of worthy projects in the plan and the pressing need to increase capacity to alleviate overcrowding, it makes no sense to spend millions to tear down Hoover and rebuild its capacity elsewhere.

10. The district should work to preserve existing neighborhood schools and the neighborhoods they serve, and should not shift toward having fewer, larger, farther-away-on-average elementary schools. The public has repeatedly expressed a strong preference for keeping all the schools open, rather than closing and consolidating schools to minimize operational costs. There is no reason to think that bigger is better when it comes to elementary schools.

11. Hoover is a diverse, walkable school in a densely populated neighborhood. It holds more students than several of the district’s other schools, and it has very low busing costs because it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. It is a model for what we should want our schools to be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In two weeks, 635 signatures and counting

The petition to keep Hoover and all our schools open, which has been in circulation for only two weeks, now has 635 signatures. The accompanying petition not to use Hoover as a swing school has 285 signatures. (Those numbers are higher than the numbers that appear on the online petitions, because paper versions of the petitions are circulating as well.) The petitions were presented to the school board at tonight’s meeting, though we will continue to collect signatures.

Thank you, everyone, for your support! You can sign the petitions online here and here.

UPDATE 11/13: The board made no decisions about the closure last night. The board members voted to move forward with the first year of the plan (including installing air conditioning at Hoover) and to continue discussions with the goal of adopting a full ten-year plan at their December 10 meeting. News coverage here, here, and here.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sign the petitions

Please consider signing our two petitions to the school board. The first asks the board to keep Hoover and all of our community schools open. The second asks the board not to use Hoover as a transitional space (or “swing school”) for other schools when they are being renovated. You can read and sign the petitions by clicking on those links.

For a brief summary of the good reasons behind these petitions, click here.

Update on the facilities plan

In the school board’s October 22 work session, Superintendent Murley presented his proposed time line for the projects in the facilities master plan. The full presentation is here.

Although the school board’s master plan said that Hoover could close no earlier than 2017-18, the superintendent’s proposal would close Hoover at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Hoover would then be used for five years as a “swing school” – that is, as a place to send kids from elsewhere while their schools are being renovated.

Although we were repeatedly told that the City High addition could not be built unless Hoover was closed, the superintendent’s proposal would complete the addition while Hoover is still up and running as a swing school. When asked how the Hoover property would be used once it’s torn down, the superintendent said that he didn’t know.

Until the board votes to accept it, the superintendent’s plan is just a proposal. The board plans to consider the proposal and possibly vote on it at its November 12 meeting. You can let the board members know your feelings about the proposal by emailing them at board@iccsd.k12.ia.us .

More commentary on the time line is here and here.

Update:  The superintendent is now preparing an amended proposal that would not use Hoover as a swing school.  The amended proposal is a work in progress, though, and may still change.  More information about it is here.