By Hannah Merrill
Community members filed into the Iowa City Community School District’s School Board Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to watch the Board continue to discuss key issues without making many decisions, as well as listen to the various improvements the district has made over the year.
The meeting began with members of the community giving their thoughts and ideas on various subjects and issues. They covered a wide range of topics, from saving money and upgrading elementary schools around town to redistricting and the new high school. Parents and others were allowed to voice their frustrations during this time.
One Iowa City resident, John Macatee, pointed out that schools such as Horace Mann Elementary School need to be upgraded before the third high school is built to ensure equal education district-wide; however, he explained, it is not fair to the voters to act like the Board should issue a blank check—the voters want to know where their money is going.
Similarly, a member of the Mark Twain Elementary School PTO encouraged the district to continue to consider the facility upgrades, specifically air conditioning at Mark Twain. She presented Mark Twain’s PTO’s long-term and short-term goals. The short-term goal will push for assessing the school buildings as well as considering what is possible in order to get some air conditioning before summer 2013. Their long-term goal is to eventually reach 100% air conditioning in the schools.
Another member of the community, a Lincoln Elementary School neighborhood resident, told his story about how his son ended up having to go to City High School. Although he said that he has no problem with the school and that his son has had a great experience, he explained that he tried to enroll his child into West High School, but was told that it was full. Recently, his frustration grew, because he was told that a Clear Creek Amana student was allowed to open-enroll at West. He pointed out that the district needs to follow through with the redistricting or else people are going to get angrier—in his opinion, the district cannot just move small groups of people, the way the process has been going.
“Just be honest with people,” he said to the Board.
The Board also presented the financial position of the school district and its improvements over the year, showing that enrollment has increased, and will continue to do so; this will result in further discussion about district facilities. Understandably so, however, when the district builds new buildings, there will be more expenses, for reasons such as heating and cooling. For example, spending has already increased this year with the opening of Borlaug Elementary School.
Not only has the financial position of the district improved, though—the class sizes are not as big as they have been in the past. Although West generally tends to have larger classes than City, as assistant superintendent Ann Feldmann explained, there are fewer classes with over 30 students at each school.
One of the most important questions, however, was what the district is planning on doing with the SILO funds. Superintendent Steve Murley said that there is not enough money in the SILO stream for all of the facility updates, new technology, and new buildings that the district needs.
“We know we have many current physical needs,” said Murley.
However he also explained that we need to be prepared and in this together, and therefore, the School Board needs to go to the voters Feb. 5 with a new revenue purpose statement.
“There’s a great need for communication throughout the community,” said Murley.