Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Who is really for City High?

Included below are my comments to the Board of Directors for the Iowa City Community School District on the Phasing Plan (12/10/2013):

I am asking the board to make an amendment to the phasing plan that would suspend Hoover's 2019 closure, and set up an annual re-evaluation, beginning in January 2015, of whether it is in the district's best interest to retire Hoover in 2019. The re-evaluation should be based on a confluence of factors including projected enrollment, the success of capacity additions elsewhere, its overall effect on operational costs and classroom sizes, and its effect on City High. I also believe it is important for the board to consider the scenario in which it should reverse the closure of Hoover.

Why should the board make this amendment rather than (a) continuing with the phasing plan as is, or (b) leaving Hoover's closure as is but re-evaluating it each year?

There are three major benefits of my proposal compared to these two other options. First, having the default option to keep Hoover open now would indicate that the school board has heard and will consider the concerns that the community is raising about the process of closing Hoover. That would go a long way to restoring our community's trust, even if Hoover will inevitably be closed. Process is important.

Second, this amendment would help keep Hoover Elementary and its community strong up to 2019. The current policy increases the chance that the neighborhood around Hoover and the school itself will deteriorate as people open enroll out of Hoover and abandon the neighborhood. Keeping Hoover Elementary and its neighborhood strong is important.

Third, and this is my most important point – and one I hope you'll consider carefully – this amendment is better for City High. That's really important to all of us, since all of the Hoover families will be sending our kids to City High. Still, defaulting to keeping Hoover open would force the administration and the board to look for alternatives to the Hoover land for relocating City High's tennis courts and softball field. One of the best alternatives – and one that the administration has apparently investigated at our prompting – is Chadak field. Chadak field is a 5-acre plot of land that is one block along 5th avenue from City High.

Last night, Superintendent Murley said that the administration had performed a preliminary evaluation of the site, and that the administration is ready to provide information to the board, should they ask or decide to pursue it further. Why haven't they? From an outsider's perspective, it appears that some board members are reluctant to pursue this option, even though it would greatly benefit City High. We could keep relocated fields all but on-site if Hoover stays open, or bring back the baseball field if its closed. Adopting this amendment would result in possibilities like Chadak field becoming realities for helping City High. But as long as the board remains committed to a default of a retired Hoover, they will likely be unwilling to pursue these valuable options for fear of weakening the case against Hoover. That is a disservice to our community, and a disservice to City High. Adopting this amendment would be best for City High!

Lastly, I know some board members have expressed concern about how adopting an amendment like the one I've proposed would place Hoover in a limbo state. To that I say, we already are and that's not going to change. We won't be under the illusion that Hoover's fate is settled until at least 2017-2018, and as a result, we are and will continue to be in limbo for many years to come.

For these reasons, I urge you to adopt my proposed amendment to suspend Hoover's 2019 closure and set up an annual re-evaluation of whether its retirement should be reinstated.

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