Friday, May 12, 2017

Ten reasons Hoover should stay open

It’s been almost four 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. The district should support the central, walkable, densely populated core of Iowa City; there is no reason to sacrifice a school there while adding capacity in areas with fewer students.  Planning for future growth is good, but the district shouldn’t abandon its existing neighborhoods and the schools that help them thrive.

2. Closing Hoover is very expensive. The district plans to tear down Hoover—which can hold over 300 students—at the same time that it is asking the voters for money to build elementary capacity elsewhere, including at east side schools.  It makes no sense to ask the voters for $192 million for facilities while throwing away a roughly $10 million asset.

3. Just three years ago, the district invested almost 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. It makes no sense to tear a school down right after investing that much money in it.

4. The public has repeatedly expressed strong opposition to closing schools.  The district needs public support to move forward with its long-term facilities plan.  District policy should be driven by the values of the community, not those of unelected administrators.

5. 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 good reason to close an efficiently-sized school in a densely populated area; nor is creating additional parking or green space for City High.

6. Although it has a very detailed long-term facilities plan, the district 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. The bare minimum of transparency requires that the district identify how the property will be used before closing a school.

7. Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to elementary schools. The district shouldn’t move toward having fewer, bigger schools, farther from where people live.

8. Four 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.

9. The planned project at City High does not require the closure of Hoover. At City High, the district plans to add six classrooms, expand the cafeteria, and add gym and wrestling space – yet the district claims that City needs the entire five-acre Hoover property as a result.  Some of the district’s own scenarios showed that Hoover could remain open even after the work at City is completed.  The two schools can co-exist, as they have for years, even after the City project is finished.

10. Hoover is an economically efficient school in a mixed-income neighborhood. It has more kids within a mile than almost any other elementary school in the district.  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.

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