Sunday, April 12, 2015

Get involved in Save Hoover

If you support keeping Hoover School open, the time to become active is now. The next school board election is less than six months away. Four of the seven board seats are up for election. It’s very possible that none of the board members who voted to close Hoover will still be on the board six months from now. This is our best opportunity to reverse the closure decision.

Also, the school district’s administrators recently released possible “updates” to the facilities plan, some of which would close more schools, such as Horace Mann, Lincoln, and Hills. This confirms what Hoover advocates have been saying all along: that the Hoover closure is really about shifting away from central neighborhood schools toward having much larger elementary schools farther from where people live. These “updates” will make even more people aware of the importance of the school closure issue as we head into the board election.

To get involved, contact SaveHooverIC@gmail.com. We plan to make a big effort in the board election. We’ll need your help to spread the word about Hoover and to work toward electing board members who won’t close schools.

Nine reasons Hoover School should stay open

It’s been almost two years since the school board voted to close Hoover School as of 2019, but the reasons to keep the school open are as strong as they have ever been. Here’s why the board should reverse the closure decision and keep Hoover open:

1. There is no compelling reason to close Hoover. The board and superintendent have 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 district should support the central, walkable, densely populated core of Iowa City, and should not sacrifice a school there while building super-sized elementary schools farther away from where the student density is. Planning for future growth is good, but the district shouldn’t abandon its existing neighborhoods and the schools that help them thrive.

3. 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.

4. 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 bond for over $100 million. District policy should be driven by the values of the community, not those of unelected administrators.

5. 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 a softball field on-site rather than a short distance away. The bare minimum of transparency requires that the district identify how the property will be used before closing a school.

6. Just three years ago, 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 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 subsequent 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 five-acre Hoover property as a result. It’s clear that the closure of Hoover has no bearing on whether the City addition can be built.

8. The district just invested over half a million dollars in improvements for Hoover, including air conditioning, new carpeting and tile, roof repair, painting, and electrical wiring. The improvements are great and much needed. Yet the district plans to spend $1.5 million to tear the school down. It makes no sense to close the school after investing that much money improving it.

9. The district is building schools that will hold 500 or 600 kids, but there’s no reason to think that bigger is better when it comes to elementary schools. Hoover is an economically efficient school in a mixed-income neighborhood. It holds over 300 students—more than some schools in the district will hold even after the district builds additions onto them—and it has very low busing costs because it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. It has successfully housed two autism classrooms for years, and now a preschool classroom. It’s a model for what we should want our schools to be.

For a more extensive discussion of the reasons to keep Hoover open, see the series of posts here.

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.