Monday, December 1, 2014

Preparing for the 2015 school board election

It’s time to start preparing for the 2015 school board election. Four of the seven seats are up for election. Three of them are held by board members (Jeff McGinness, Marla Swesey, and Patti Fields) who are in favor of closing Hoover. The election is a real opportunity for supporters of Hoover School.

Our goal is to raise the Hoover issue with all of the candidates and to make sure that voters are informed about where the candidates stand.

Between our petition signers, our yard sign holders, and our volunteers, we start with over nine hundred identified supporters. Unlike in 2013, when the election came only seven weeks after the board voted to close Hoover, we have the better part of a year to prepare for 2015.

We hope both to increase our volunteer effort and to raise money to get our message out—not only to the Hoover attendance area but also to voters across the district. Closing schools in a time of growing enrollment has never had the support of the community. The more people we reach, the better the prospects for keeping Hoover open.

For twelve good reasons to keep Hoover open, click here. If you’d like to help, please email savehooveric@gmail.com. If you haven’t already signed the petition, you can do so here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Air conditioning finally arrives at Hoover, part of $615,000 in improvements


I stopped into Hoover school today to get a look at the ongoing renovation. The district decided to spend over $615,000 to renovate Hoover this summer, and it shows: the building looks like one big workshop, with everything temporarily dislocated, ceilings down, rooms cleared, etc. Air conditioning is finally going in, as well as new wiring throughout the building, painting, roof repair and replacement, new carpeting and tile flooring in many parts of the building, completely new fixtures and handicapped-accessibility improvements in the bathrooms, motion-sensitive lighting, newly installed security cameras and doors, and some asbestos abatement. The building should be ready for kids to start school in mid-August.

It’s hard to believe that the school board plans to close the school and tear down the building just a few years after investing this much money in it. A lot of heads are shaking about that plan. The board has committed to reviewing the facilities plan, including the Hoover closure, annually; I’m still optimistic that at some point—though maybe not until we elect new board members in 2015—the board will come to its senses about keeping Hoover open.

Update: Although the district budgeted $1.5 million for these upgrades to Hoover, the cost reportedly came in at jut over $615,000. This post has been updated to reflect that information.

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.

UPDATE, Summer 2014: 12. The district is in the midst of spending over half a million dollars on improvements for Hoover, including the installation of air conditioning. The improvements are great and much needed. It makes no sense to close the school after investing that much money in improving it.

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.