Cedar Rapids School District delays demolition of Harrison Elementary
Mar 2024

Cedar Rapids School District delays demolition of Harrison Elementary

High School graduates who had attended Harrison Elementary gather at the school at the end of the 2023 school year. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The iconic Harrison Elementary School has been given a one-year reprieve.

Slated to be demolished at the end of this school year to be replaced by a new building at a cost of $33.8 million — well over the $29.2 million budgeted for a new building on the site at 1310 11th St. NW — the solid structure will be allowed to stand for at least one more year.

Related: Costs for Harrison replacement soar

In announcing the change on Friday, March 29, 2024, the Cedar Rapids Community School District did not reveal a reason behind the decision.

A rendering in December 2023 shows the proposed replacement school for Harrison Elementary.

“We wanted to provide you with an update on Harrison and Madison Elementary Schools,” the district said in a statement. “It has been decided that Harrison and Madison students will continue to attend their current schools for the 2024-2025 school year. Given some of the variables we are currently working with, we believe this is in the best interest of our students, staff, and families for next year. We are also pleased to announce that Trista Manternach will continue to serve as principal for both buildings next year.”

Last year, the Cedar Rapids School Board quickly overturned the recommendation of a task force that spent seven months examining the choice between a new school at the Madison Elementary site or updating Harrison Elementary, as the two schools are combined.

Demolishing Harrison was never offered as an option to the task force, as the building, which opened in 1930, is considered the most architecturally significant of Cedar Rapids elementary schools and was deemed structurally sound.

Still, the School Board claimed it would save taxpayers money to demolish Harrison and start from scratch, at $28.9 million, approximately $1 million less than the estimate to update Harrison and build an addition.

More: Iowa City upgrades schools at half the cost of Cedar Rapids plan

Neighbors overwhelmingly opposed the new building and Save CR Heritage supporters demonstrated against demolition of the rare English Tudor/Gothic building, which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Supporters advocate to save Harrison Elementary School during a demonstration organized by Save CR Heritage in October 2023. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

In January, the City Planning Commission tabled a vote on the school district’s request to rezone the property to accommodate the new school, asking that the district solidify their plans before a rezoning recommendation would be made to the City Council.

At that time, Chad Schumacher, the school district’s director of operations, told the commission the School Board would hire a consultant to let them know how to proceed on their next bond referendum after voters overwhelming rejected their $220 million proposal in November.

As part of that process, he said, the consultant would solicit input from Harrison and Madison Elementary families, but Schumacher did not promise the district would change course on their demolition plans.

The School District also provided an update March 29 on the survey, noting that in the next few weeks, the District will mail and email a community survey to all households in the district to gather input from staff, families and the community on how best to address facility needs.

“The email and mail survey will come from School Perceptions, an independent education research firm we are working with to administer the survey,” the district stated in the announcement. “The survey will be available in English, Spanish, French, and Swahili. Your input will be kept confidential and returned to School Perceptions, who will analyze the data and report the findings to the Board of Education in the coming months.”

Leading up to a 2018 vote to determine the master plan for elementary facilities, survey questions only referred to the size of new structures and gave no option to reuse existing schools.

More: School Board votes to close eight neighborhood schools


Barb Alt Dodd

Lived right by Harrison and attended from 1959-1956. It is the jewel of the neighborhood.

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you for your message, Barb. We agree, it’s a gem!

    Barb Alt Dodd

    *1950 to 1956

Linda English-Keeler

So happy to hear this! ,💕 I attended Harrison from Kinder to 5th grade! My mother,and brothers and sister did also. My grandmother worked in the cafeteria, she made sure there wasn’t too much butter on my bread!

    Cindy Hadish

    Thanks for your note, Linda! Sounds like a great place to go to school!

Linda Schneider-Erger

My dad, Frank Schneider, was a principal at Harrison for many years. He would be devastated to hear of its demise. Dad fought to preserve that school and made sure that students respected that building.

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you for sharing that, Linda! When did he serve as principal?

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