Bus tour to shine spotlight on endangered historic schools in Cedar Rapids
Sep 2019

Bus tour to shine spotlight on endangered historic schools in Cedar Rapids

Arthur Elementary School will be the start of a bus tour of historic Cedar Rapids schools led by Mark Stoffer Hunter on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

NOTE: Tickets for the School Bus Tour with Mark Stoffer Hunter will be sold for $10 each on a first-come, first-served basis during the Save CR Heritage PopUp Shop salvage sale at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 & Oct. 4; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 & Oct. 5 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29 & Oct. 6. Tour admission is free for “card-carrying” Save CR Heritage members, but members must RSVP. Send an email to: Memberships will be sold during the salvage sale for $25 each. Once seats fill, no passengers can be added. The tour is Friday, Oct. 11, starting at 4 p.m. at Arthur Elementary, 2630 B Ave. NE. See inside the more than century-old school! An actual school bus will take tour-goers past historic Cedar Rapids schools starting at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Under the Cedar Rapids School District’s facilities master plan, all of the district’s historic elementary schools will be demolished or closed.

Harrison Elementary School, which opened in northwest Cedar Rapids in 1930, was built in an English Tudor design. (photo/Nicole Halvorson)

Save CR Heritage is hosting an Oct. 11 bus tour — using an actual school bus — to highlight what will be lost if the plan comes to fruition.

The tour includes two buildings that have continuously been used for more than 100 years as schools: Garfield Elementary and Arthur Elementary, both constructed in northeast Cedar Rapids in 1914.

Attendees will be able see inside Arthur Elementary, 2630 B Ave. NE, the starting point for the tour. Hardwood floors and other architectural elements have stood the test of time.

Learn how Arthur and Garfield celebrated their centennials.

“That’s a testament to the early 20th-Century construction that made schools permanent, for all time,” said Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, who will be leading the tour. “You just don’t get rid of these buildings. There’s nothing wrong with them.”

The School Board voted in January 2018 to close eight elementary schools, build 10 new “mega” schools that would each house 600 students and keep three newer schools. By indicating their intent to use the 1 percent sales tax stream known as “SAVE,” the board circumvented a vote by the public on the measure, normally required in projects of much smaller magnitude.

See how cost estimates have already increased by $5 million per school.

Vintage postcards show Cedar Rapids middle schools, then used as high schools for the district.

A Revenue Purpose Statement on the Nov. 5 ballot would allow the Cedar Rapids School District to use money from the state’s 1 percent sales tax, including for the demolition of schools, without input from residents. The measure lists property tax relief as one of the purposes of the tax, a misleading notion, as the master plan would use all of the funds.

The bus tour also will include Cedar Rapids middle schools, such as Franklin, built as a junior high at B Avenue and 20th Street NE in 1924. School district leaders have indicated the middle schools are the next targets for the facilities master plan.

Franklin’s cornerstone was put in place in 1923 and the building opened in January 1924. The school was one of four financed by a 1920 bond issue. Roosevelt and McKinley opened in 1922 and Wilson in 1925.

World-renowned artist Grant Wood taught art at McKinley during the 1920s. The Cedar Rapids school named in his honor is on the district’s closure list.

Learn about the School Board vote from 2018.

Intricate craftsmanship can be seen in the Gothic arches at Franklin Middle School. Built on a sloping site, the school was designed by Cedar Rapids architect William J. Brown.
(photo/Cindy Hadish)

The closures will remove walkable neighborhood schools in favor of larger schools to which young kindergarten through fifth grade students will need to be bused. No funding for busing was included in the initial $224 million proposal for the master plan, which was touted for its cost-savings over time.

A committee, which included members with ties to the school district and construction industry, met for 18 months to ultimately agree with a hired consultant’s plan for the district. The committee had no minority representation by the end of the process.

No option for renovating existing schools was offered under the plan’s initial choices, though three newer schools will be retained. Despite outcry from community members leading up to the January 2018 decision, the School Board voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

Under the plan, these schools will be closed:

Kenwood Leadership Academy is among the neighborhood schools slated to close under the plan. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

• Garfield, 1201 Maplewood Drive NE

• Grant Wood, 645 26th St. SE

• Kenwood Leadership Academy, 3700 E Ave. NE

• Madison, 1341 Woodside Drive NW

• Nixon, 200 Nixon Drive, Hiawatha

• Taylor, 720 Seventh Ave. SW

• Truman, 441 West Post Road. NW

• Van Buren, 2525 29th St. SW

These schools will be demolished, and replaced by larger 600-student schools, except for Johnson, which would have a smaller student capacity. Harrison’s unique architecture “will be taken into account,” but what that entails was unclear in the language of the resolution.

• Arthur, 2630 B Ave. NE

• Cleveland, 2200 First Ave. NW

• Coolidge, 6225 First Ave. SW

• Erskine, 600 36th St. SE

• Harrison, 1310 11th St. NW

• Hoover, 4141 Johnson Ave. NW

• Jackson, 1300 38th St. NW

• Johnson STEAM Academy, 355 18th St. SE

• Pierce, 4343 Marilyn Drive NE

• Wright, 1524 Hollywood Blvd. NE

These newer schools would be retained:

• Viola Gibson, 6101 Gibson Drive NE

• Hiawatha, 603 Emmons St., Hiawatha

• Grant, 254 Outlook Drive SW



Carole Wilson

This is a waste!! The school’s could be made into admin. Ofcs or nursing homes, homes for homeless etc etc. The old ones have architecture that cannot be replaced!!!!

    Cindy Hadish

    We agree, Carole! These buildings are irreplaceable. The new School Board could re-examine the plan before these are lost.

C K Glover

I also agree with you Carol & Cindy!! These older buildings have great architecture some of which aren’t found much any more. Okay, if you don’t think they fit the bill any more as schools then close the schools & convert them into business building, or homeless shelters, or something else. I’ve stayed in a converted school that was repurposed as offices for lawyers, elegant roomy hotel rooms, & meeting rooms as well as catering events like wedding showers, other events too. Of course they had to add an elevator. The room we stayed in was rather roomy & had all the latest amenities like small fridge, stove top, microwave, kitchen wet bar etc. The rest of our group had great rooms too with King size beds. Each set of hotel accomodations was unique & roomy.
I’m sure some schools could be rehabbed and modified into much more acceptable school accomodations. It’s better than bussing the young children all over further from their local neighborhoods. Doesn’t anyone have enough imagination any more that they can’t come up with a better solution than demolishing the buildings just so they can build new??

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you, C.K. It appears there is little imagination in using these buildings. That seems to be the standard mindset in Cedar Rapids, unfortunately. One day, residents will look back on this, just as they still do with the demolition of the downtown Union Station, and wonder why no one understood the importance of keeping these buildings.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.