Petition calls for Garfield Elementary closure to be heard by Cedar Rapids School Board
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – Save CR Heritage, with a coalition of school supporters, is launching a petition drive to place the closure of Garfield Elementary School on the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Board of Education agenda.
School Board members voted in 2018 to close eight elementary schools, build 10 new “mega” schools that would each house 600 students and keep three newer schools.
Last month, without a public hearing, the school board quietly approved an amendment to the district’s facilities master plan, just hours after details of what they were voting on were made public. The agenda item posted in advance of the meeting did not stipulate which schools were being considered for new buildings or closure and supporting documents were only added on March 28 – the date of the meeting – giving the public little time to respond.
The vote, with only board member Dexter Merschbrock opposing the measure, calls for a new school to be built to replace Arthur Elementary School, and the closure of Garfield Elementary School, one mile away at 1201 Maplewood Dr. NE. No plans are in place for the future use of either school, both of which opened in 1915.
Under a new Iowa law, residents can bring an agenda item to a school board with signatures of 500 district voters.
Save CR Heritage, an all-volunteer nonprofit, works to preserve our city’s historic resources through education, assistance, advocacy and action, but the petition goes beyond historic preservation, as school closures affect students, neighborhoods, families, teachers, staff and the entire city.
The petition to place Garfield’s closure on the agenda will be available to sign at the following:
J.E. Halvorson House, 606 Fifth Ave. SE, from 5-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 20;
Save CR Heritage table at EcoFest outside of NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 23;
During the Save CR Heritage Anniversary Tour, from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the J.E. Halvorson House.
Supporters, including the Grant Wood Advocacy Committee, also will be canvassing neighborhoods in the coming days. Grant Wood is among the schools scheduled to close under the district’s facilities master plan.
Grant Wood parent Leigh Ann Erickson, an educator and 2019 Finalist for Iowa Teacher of the Year, presented information their group collected regarding school closures to the School Board.
“Though we’ve worked with Grant Wood in mind, we know this research is relevant for the fates of other schools,” Erickson told the board.
Among the findings, she noted that school closures disproportionately affect students of color and those of lower socioeconomic status, and with such closures, fewer students are able to bike or walk to school and must be bused.
“A decision as far-reaching as closing a neighborhood school affects the entire city,” Save CR Heritage Board President Nikki Halvorson said. “Residents at least deserve a chance for their voices to be heard, which is what this petition is about.”
If enough signatures are gathered by the end of the month, the closure would be placed on the May 9 school board meeting. Regular meetings of the Board of Education are generally held on the second Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Educational Leadership & Support Center, 2500 Edgewood Rd. NW.