One of the three reasons given by School Board President Chris Lynch, at an informational meeting about Hoover Elementary on June 16, 2015, was that City High School needs the land for the purposes of future academic and athletic expansions. However, now, even two years after the initial school board vote to close Hoover, the administration and school board still can give no concrete plan, nor even a specific suggestion, for the use of the land. Is Hoover really going to be closed for unspecified purposes?
What can be said about this issue?
1) First, the Hoover land is too far away from the rest of the academic buildings of City High to be used for anything other than a parking lot or an athletic field. But, the Iowa City community, particularly those voters who would need to pass any future bond issues by super-majority, would be horrified to discover that a vibrant and successful elementary school was torn down to build a parking lot or ball field. Is it therefore too politically inconvenient for the administration to commit to any specific use of the Hoover land because it would endanger the bond that is essential to complete the Facilities Master Plan?
2) When the issue of closing Hoover was being considered by the school board, Chadek field, an open expanse of land nearly the size of Hoover Elementary’s land and located just two blocks from City High, was being sold. This plot of land would be ideal for additional parking or athletic fields for City High. Although this fact was raised by the public at board meetings at the time, the administration and school board did not pursue this possibility, nor even discuss it in the meetings, despite their claims that the need for land at City High was so urgent that Hoover Elementary needed to be torn down.
3) What do City High teachers think about the need for more land? Board Candidate Tom Yates, who was a teacher at City High for 31 years, has made this statement in response to the question of whether the Hoover closure is necessary:
“Discussion of City High needs, and the list presented at the last meeting, do not indicate a need for more acreage. I taught in that building for 31 years, and can think of several ways to get better use of its space, or added space, than the last two expansion projects. The lack of imagination concerning City baffles me.”
For Yates’ entire response, see
School Board Candidates’ Responses about Hoover
4) In response to community questions about the future use of Hoover land for City High, the administration, in a recent board meeting, stated that it would cost from $350,000 to $400,000 to do a study to inform the public what Hoover land would be used for. If it is that difficult to say how the land will be used, is it really a compelling argument for closing a vibrant neighborhood elementary school?
5) North Liberty High School is currently being built to address enrollment growth at the secondary level. When this is complete, transfer of students into that school will reduce the populations of both West High and City High. The ideal in terms of equity would be for the three high schools to have similar enrollments. So, why does City High need to expand in the first place? With significant growth in district high school capacity to be available in the near future, what urgent need at City High necessitates tearing down a successful neighborhood elementary school?
6) I have heard City High supporters often state that West High has twice the land that City High has, and that they are afraid that the unequal footprint of the two schools will doom City High to a future as a second-rate high school in the district. Following that logic, one might conclude that City High is currently half as good as West High, since it has half the land. At that June Hoover informational meeting, one City High supporter was aghast at such a suggestion, but the flaw in their logic is obvious. Does the huge lawn out front of West High School make the education of their students any more thorough?
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The administration ad school board consistently state an urgent need for land for the expansion of City High School, yet they cannot, or will not, say how the land will be used. All Hoover students will eventually go to City High School, so no Hoover parent wants to weaken their child’s eventual high school. But the public demands a sufficient reason before tearing down a neighborhood elementary school! Even two years after the school board’s vote to close Hoover Elementary, a sufficient reason has yet to be provided. This lack of transparency on the part of both the administration and school board undermines the public trust, and will certainly endanger any future attempted bond issues.
Every parent in the district should care, because replacing Hoover’s capacity through new construction will require at least $5M to $8M, money that could be better spent on the real and immediate needs of the students across the district, as discussed below:
The Cost to Close Hoover Elementary School
The four candidates that have expressed serious interest in changing the behavior of the school board to transparent, responsible, and accountable oversight of the school district are:
Please join me at the polls on September 8th in helping these four candidates revitalize the school board and push the district toward a positive future for all students in the district.