Rule of thirds: a new high school

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By Hannah Merrill

Facility upgrades, plans for the third high school, and the future of the SILO funds (infrastructure local-option sales tax) were the hottest topics in the room of the Iowa City School District School Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, drawing in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty residents to defend their opinions and listen to those of the Board.

The meeting commenced with the community comment section, allowing residents of the Johnson County area to participate in discussion.

A local woman shared her frustrations with the poor air conditioning in many schools in the district. She found it ridiculous that many classrooms are at temperatures that can affect learning conditions. She pointed out that to create equal schooling opportunities, all classrooms should be the same temperatures. Furthermore, a Mark Twain Elementary School mother explained that a hot, stuffy classroom creates an uncomfortable, unhealthy learning environment.

Similarly, another woman proposed that using the districts funds to upgrade the schools and add onto them as well would be a better, less expensive use of the money than building a new high school. Though some expressed their concerns about a mega school, she pointed out that at the moment, Iowa City High School still has room for growth, even though West High School is overcrowded. Therefore, according to the woman, even if each of the schools reached populations of about 2,000, they would be nowhere near the size of a mega high school (around 4,000 to 5,000 students).

Although many agreed that the funds could go elsewhere, a North Liberty resident voiced his disappointments in the decision making process of the future of the third high school. “I voted for funds for a new high school,” he said, continuing to say that his vote was not for funding building repairs.

“Yes, a third high school will be needed at some point in time,” School Board member Jeff McGinness said, agreeing with a local resident who argued that no one should be asking if a new high school will be built, but rather when it will be built. And right now, some feel that facility upgrades are the priority.

The School Board meeting continued with some explanations from Superintendent Steve Murley, regarding moving forward with various projects in the district. “One of the problems we face as a district is too many projects, not enough time,” said Murley, later saying, “Our needs exceed the current revenue stream.”

Finally, among the important parts of the meeting was the annual Safety and Climate report from the 2011-2012 school year. The data collected displayed many improvements—for example, in response to the statement “I feel safe at school” on one survey, 96% said that they
strongly agreed/agreed (this was the highest percentage of students in several years to agree).

In a survey of sixth, eighth, and eleventh graders, 95% said that they had not smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, however eight percent said that they had used marijuana for one or more days.

Overall, however, most of the data proved to be positive, showing optimism in the efforts for change the district has made.

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