Petition calls for vote on Harrison Elementary bond issue in Cedar Rapids
Further update, Aug. 7, 2023: The Cedar Rapids Community School District responded today to the petition calling for an election on the Harrison Elementary bond issue, citing 2,385 signatures, short of the 7,582 required in a two-week time period. Save CR Heritage Board President Nikki Halvorson noted that as more people became aware of the petition drive, volunteers were approached by people eager to sign the petition, local businesses came on board to serve as petition sites and a steady stream of School District voters lined up to sign the petition the day before they were due. “We didn’t run out of people who wanted to sign, or who could sign,” she said. “We ran out of time.” In contrast, the school district needs just 6,319 signatures of eligible voters by Sept. 22 — about seven weeks — to place the district’s $220 million bond issue on the ballot.
Update: Eligible voters in the Cedar Rapids School District can sign the Harrison petition from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 30, at the JE Halvorson House, 606 Fifth Ave. SE, next to Kathy’s Pies in Cedar Rapids. Petitions also can be signed during business hours at Cultivate Hope Corner Store, 604 Ellis Blvd. NW; Sweet Mercantile, 98 16th Ave. SWin Czech Village; Runt’s Munchies, 118 Second St. SEin downtown Cedar Rapids; NewBo Shops at the Heart House, 1301 Third St. SE; The Quarter Barrel, 616 Second Ave. SE, and Grandma’s Root Cellar in the NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE .A pdf of the petition can be requested by sending an email to: SaveCRHeritage@gmail.com
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A rarely used Iowa law is being put to the test as volunteers gather petitions calling for an election on the $30 million bond issue for Harrison Elementary School.
The Cedar Rapids School Board overturned the work of a committee that spent months examining data, which recommended earlier this year that the structurally sound Harrison, 1310 11th St. NW, be updated, with a new addition constructed, as the architectural firm hired by the district deemed viable.
Instead, the School Board decided to pursue demolition of the historic school, only to build a new school on the same site. Harrison, a rare example of an English Tudor/Gothic-style building in Cedar Rapids, opened in 1930 and is deemed the most architecturally significant elementary in the city.
While most school districts allow residents to vote on far-reaching multi-million dollar bond issues, the Cedar Rapids School District has circumvented the public’s voice by using Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) funds for its elementary Facilities Master Plan, which has so far demolished three schools solely to construct new, larger schools; removing walkable neighborhood hubs.
Under Iowa law, school district residents can petition for a special election on school bond issues, with 30 percent of voter turnout in the last school board election required in signatures within two weeks after a public hearing.
The bar is high.
Initially informed that just over 5,800 signatures were needed, Save CR Heritage was told after the initiative was underway that 7,582 valid petitions actually would be required, due to an Iowa Supreme Court decision last year.
The School Board held the public hearing on the $30 million bond issue Monday, July 17, making the petition deadline July 31. Signatures must be from eligible voters in the Cedar Rapids School District: most of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Palo and Robins.
Volunteers are canvassing neighborhoods, petition sheets are being placed in businesses and a petition drive is underway this weekend at the JE Halvorson House, 606 Fifth Ave. SE, where residents can sign a petition, drop off signatures gathered or pick up a petition to gather signatures in their neighborhood.