Thursday, February 4, 2016

Community input on redistricting

The school board is beginning the process of drawing new elementary attendance zones in anticipation of opening two new elementary schools in 2019. We’re drawing them now because, even though those elementaries won’t open until 2019, they could affect the attendance zones for junior high students as of 2017 or even as of next year.

The board has invited public input on attendance zones. You can provide your thoughts via email to board@iowacityschools.org, or by attending our public hearing on the issue on March 1 at 6:00 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, or by speaking at public comment before one of our board meetings. The board won’t be able to accommodate everyone’s preferences, but they are certainly a factor we should take into account.

The board also posted a “neighborhood input” form, which you can use, if you’d like, to aggregate the comments of people in your neighborhood (however you choose to define your neighborhood). I’m not crazy about the form, because it seems to require a degree of organization and agreement that I think many people would not have the energy for, and I worry that it could function as a barrier to participation. But it’s just one way to provide input; you can always use a simple email if you’d rather.

Some in the Hoover neighborhood have wondered how they should provide input. The board’s current plan is to draw districts that would eliminate the Hoover attendance zone, since the current plan is to close the school in 2019. Hoover area residents want to have input into the rezoning process, but many of them do not want to be perceived as approving of the closure itself. How should they express their input?

I don’t think Hoover area residents should pass up the opportunity to provide input into the districting process. The board is well aware that many people (there and elsewhere) oppose the closure. Feel free to tell the board that “Old” Hoover is your first preference, but then go ahead and identify your second and third (and even fourth) preferences. You can do that with a simple email or by using the neighborhood input form.

This public input process is not intended to measure support for the closure, but just to enable the board to draw up a zoning plan. The fact is: we don’t know whether Hoover will close. Three of the seven current board members (including me) oppose the closure. This board or the next one (with three seats to be filled in 2017) could decide to reverse the closure decision. In fact, the difficulty of drawing workable attendance zones without Hoover could provide another occasion for revisiting the decision. Either way, it will be helpful to know what people’s preferences are when it comes to attendance zones.

You’re most likely to be affected by this rezoning if you live in the areas near the two elementaries that will open in 2019. Grant Elementary will be in the North Corridor (map here); “Hoover East” will be on the far east side of Iowa City (map here). But it’s hard to know what the ripple effects might be; it’s a good idea to provide input no matter where you live. The current elementary school attendance zone map is here.

If you’re going to send input, it would be best do it by March 1.


Cabel said...

Hi Chris, welcome to the council! Thanks for the article and for giving us some options to address this hot issue. For me personally, I still don't quite understand why Hoover needs to be closed in the first place given it's location in the neighborhood (I see kids walking and riding bikes to school) and the fact that it's near or at capacity and will be for years to come. And the other thing is, I have yet to meet anyone in "my neck of the woods" who has yet to support the closure, so I wonder where this is all coming from and what's driving it. Is there an article anywhere that explains this?

Cabel Gray (parent of 5 & 7 year old at Hoover)

Chris said...

Cabel --- Thanks! You're preaching to the choir about keeping Hoover open. In my view, it makes no sense to throw away three hundred seats of elementary capacity -- which will ultimately *create* a capacity need on the east side -- when we have pressing capacity issues in other parts of the district. I also think maintaining our current elementary schools is an important part of keeping a vibrant central core to Iowa City.

As far as how to explain it, well, it sometimes feels like a game of Whack-a-mole. As soon you push on one of the rationales, a different one gets put forward. On my previous blog, I wrote extensively about the different arguments, and you can also find some helpful posts at the Save Hoover blog. My Hoover-related posts on this blog are here. I'm still hopeful that either this board or the next one will recognize that it makes sense to keep the school open.

Blake Hendrickson said...

Thank you for writing this blog. Has anyone considered starting a save Hoover facebook group? This would be a good way to round up supporters.

Chris said...

Blake -- I think there was some discussion of starting a Save Hoover Facebook page during this most recent board election. I think maybe it was really a manpower issue -- who would keep it up, reply to comments, etc., and there were a lot of competing time demands at the time. Save Hoover does have a blog, which is here. But a Facebook page is definitely something worth considering.

Blake Hendrickson said...

Responding to questions may not be necessary if it is more of a community discussion group and not an official questions and answers group. Most Facebook groups don't take much moderation until they get huge. Facebook groups can spread like wild fire.