We, the undersigned, urge the Iowa City Community School District School Board and administration to use SILO funds to begin the planning and funding of an additional elementary school on the far east side of the District, as well as other critical infrastructure improvements in facilities and technology around the District. Long-range planning for growth in the District and pressing capacity issues at the elementary school level require the immediate investment of SILO funds in the key target goals stated by the Board at the time of SILO’s inception: “District priorities are to address enrollment growth with new construction, to attend to deferred maintenance needs, and to provide facility improvements to existing schools that reduce inequities between new and old buildings.”
In support of this action plan, we note the following considerations:
• District head-counts increased by 442 students last year, a stunning uptick in population that has stretched several east-side elementaries (Wood, Lemme, Longfellow, Lucas, Hoover) to capacity and beyond. These 5 schools collectively added 126 students this year, putting them all over capacity, with a net total of 77 students beyond capacity. Were this population trend to continue, even the small amounts of existing capacity at other east-side elementary schools would be quickly used up, despite redistricting efforts. Hundreds of additional residential lots are slated for near-term development on the east side of the District.
• Over $60 million in SILO funds has been collected since 2007 for facilities additions and improvements, but has been spent almost exclusively on the west and north sides of our District (e.g., Borlaug - $11.5m, Garner - $10m, and the Horn addition - $3.5m) to address capacity issues and enhance technological infrastructure, while no SILO money has been spent on new east-side schools.
• Lopsided investment in the District will further exacerbate the imbalance between City High and West High, which has caused serious crowding issues at one school, and limits scheduling flexibility of certain course section offerings at the other school.
• The remaining ~$50 million in SILO funds available for use by 2017 includes $32 million currently earmarked for building a 3rd comprehensive high school, but these funds should instead be used for infrastructure improvements that are more immediate, more well-defined, and more critical, such as:
a) a new east-side elementary to alleviate capacity issues at Wood, Lemme, Lucas, Longfellow, and Hoover ($11-13 million)
b) facilities upgrades to reduce inequities between new and old buildings
c) additions to Penn Elementary ($3 million) and Kirkwood Elementary ($3 million) to alleviate impending capacity issues in North Liberty and Coralville
d) fiber optic cable installation for internet bandwidth improvements to area schools
e) other technology and classroom improvements that will facilitate ICCSD’s transition to the classrooms of the 21st Century
• Board-established triggers for potentially constructing a 3rd comprehensive high school are not projected to occur until 2017. Such a significant advance commitment of funds (~$40 million) to a project that is at best debatable leaves the District vulnerable to miscalculations in learning space models and facility placement, in a time of rapidly shifting educational models and student population shifts. Classrooms are quickly becoming more decentralized and instruction more personalized, through online learning, mobile technologies, and inquiry-based, student-guided learning. We run the risk of overbuilding for the classrooms of yesterday, when we need to be anticipating and reconfiguring for the classrooms of tomorrow.
• Should the need for a 3rd comprehensive high school be apparent in 2017, SILO can be reauthorized at that time (through 2029) to fund it. Meanwhile, the Board should work to balance the high school population between City and West, to make best use of existing facilities and capacity.
The time has come for the School Board and the District administration to be more forward-looking in planning for long-term growth and balance around the ICCSD. Sound investment of the remaining SILO funds in a new east-side elementary and technology/infrastructure improvements to existing facilities will position the ICCSD to better meet the needs of a rapidly shifting educational landscape and a rapidly growing student population.
Many other concerned members of the community, listed below