Fate of Hoover Elementary Under Consideration

Claire Noack and Hailey Verdick

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Hoover Elementary opened its doors in August 1954.  Since then several thousand students have attended the school. Fast forward to the 2017-2018 school year and Hoover Elementary could be closing.

“I was sad when I heard they wanted to close Hoover,” Ellie Benson ‘14 said. “I loved elementary school and I think Hoover is a great place to be.”

The ICCSD school board has made a decision to close Hoover no sooner than the 2017-2018 school year as part of a larger 10-year plan for the district.

“I think there was a lot of effort and time put into that and I think it’s a good plan,” Sally Hoelscher, ICCSD board member said. “I think it’s going to move our [school] district forward.”

The long-range facilities plan Hoelscher is referring to calls for a third high school, additions and renovations to nearly all current elementary schools and Jr. Highs, as well as the construction of three new elementary schools in the district.

“It’s the first long-range plan that we’ve had in over twenty years,” Hoelscher said. “It seems like with a district our size that would be a good thing.”

The school board has been developing the plan since the fall of 2012. Different consultants were brought in, and the final recommendation to the board was to close Hoover.

City High will require more additions and renovations in the future. The idea is to use the land Hoover sits on for City High, but a more detailed plan has not yet been established. Hoover is an older building and for it to remain open would require many costly renovations.  

Hoelscher says that if Hoover weren’t as old of a building, or if it were the only elementary school in the area, Hoover probably wouldn’t be closing. However, the combination of the two makes closing Hoover the most logical step.

Current Hoover Elementary fourth grader Aaron Rutherford  claims that he doesn’t care much because he will graduate Hoover in the next few years. However, some members of the community have opinions against the schools’ closing.

“I did not think there was a well-laid out justification to close Hoover.” Tuyet Dorau, ICCSD board member said. “If City High needs an addition I think we can look at ways to add that addition without closing Hoover, but we never explored that.”

Dorau agrees with the vast majority of the plan, specifically the building of a third high school to alleviate the overcrowding in the current high schools. However, she disagrees with the steps the School Board took when deciding to close Hoover.

“There is a principle called the Barker Principle which is used as best practice on what you do and the steps you need to follow when closing a school,” Dorau said. “I don’t think we went through that process.”

The Barker Principle was enforceable by law until recently, when it was overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court. It required the School Board to lay out a step by step plan when closing a school, as well as go and talk to the community the closure would be affecting.  

“A lot of really important questions remain unanswered about this,”Jeff Kosier, sixth grade teacher at Hoover Elementary said. “There are many people upset and opposed to this scenario.”

Benson has one more reason to be worried about the closure. Her mom is Hoover’s newest first grade teacher.  However, Hoelscher asserts that this isn’t an issue, as three new elementary schools will be built to replace Hoover.

“We are one of the few districts in the state that is growing.” Hoelscher said. “So we’re not just closing a school, nobody is going to lose their job.”

Other concerns are an increase in travel time and logistical problems, as well as a negative impact on the students that might accompany closing Hoover. While supporters do point out that every neighborhood in the current Hoover district but one is within walking distance of another elementary school, some still see a major problem.

“I don’t think most Hoover parents can see their kids walking to Longfellow, Lemme or Lucas,” Kosier said. “In fact, I cannot see any benefit to the Hoover community in closing the school.”

Another source of concern seems to be the lack of definite plans for Hoover.

“Some would tell you the benefit will come when students are at CHS.” Kosier states. “But given that no one wants to commit to exactly how the land will be used, I think that is a pretty nonsensical statement.”

Dorau also points out more sentimental reasons against closing the school.

There are some memorials there for past students and teachers that are on the Hoover property,” Dorau said. “so making sure that those are preserved in some manner is really important, honoring those people.”

With all the strong opinions involved in a decision such as this, it is no surprise that there is some uncertainty surrounding it as well.  

“Before going through with the decision, I hope that they have really thought it through, and weighed all the pros and cons.” Benson said. “I hope that they are really sure they’ve made the right choice.”