Cedar Rapids School survey omits cost information
Apr 2024

Cedar Rapids School survey omits cost information

A question regarding Harrison Elementary is included in the Cedar Rapids School District’s survey, without any context about the building’s architectural significance or determination of its sound structure. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Voters in the Cedar Rapids Community School District this week began receiving a survey from the district, intended to reflect the priorities of taxpayers as the district determines a path forward after its $220 million bond referendum was overwhelmingly defeated last fall.

The survey, mailed to 60,000 active, registered voters in the district and due back by April 22, 2024, includes one question on Harrison Elementary School, but leaves out important information regarding the district’s expenditures.

“What advice would you give regarding Harrison Elementary?” the survey asks, after an “explainer” that the district believes continuing to maintain all of its schools is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Claiming cost savings, the School Board last year overturned a task force recommendation to upgrade the structurally sound Harrison Elementary and instead, demolish the building to construct a new school at the location. Those “savings” quickly disappeared as it was revealed the new building would actually cost more than $33 million, far more than the $29 million estimate to keep Harrison and build an addition.

More: Costs for Harrison replacement soar

Omitted from the survey language is how much the district has “responsibly” spent on demolishing elementary schools and more than $80 million to build three new schools, using taxpayer SAVE funding.

While respondents can choose from four answers regarding the architecturally significant Harrison Elementary, at 1310 11th St. NW, there are no questions related to plans to continue using those taxpayer dollars to build new elementary schools, now estimated at $33 million each.

Those dollars could be spent for building maintenance, ADA improvements and other needs at the district’s schools, many of which, like Harrison, are structurally sound.

Instead, the survey makes a point of noting that the district’s buildings average over 68 years old, but leaves out the costs of repairs after Iowa’s 2020 hurricane-strength derecho, which severely damaged newer Cedar Rapids schools, including Kennedy High School, while near century-old buildings, such as Wilson, McKinley, Franklin, Roosevelt and Harrison stood strong.

The Cedar Rapids School District has spent more than $729,000 in PPEL funds to renovate the Metro Economic Alliance building in downtown Cedar Rapids, which the district does not own. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The survey also points to unused classroom space in some of the schools, but omits the more than $1 million the district has spent in the past five years on leased space for Iowa BIG and two other locations.

Respondents would have to know that information to suggest better utilizing current space under the “comments/questions/suggestions” sections in the survey.

In asking voters to approve renewal of the district’s Physical Plant & Equipment Levy (PPEL) the survey leaves out that PPEL funds also have been used to demolish the Arthur Elementary annex to make room for the new Trailside Elementary, 2630 B Ave. NE, and for more than $729,000 in renovations to the Metro Economic Alliance building in downtown Cedar Rapids, which the district does not even own.

Related: CR School Board agrees to plus-$1 million agreement for Economic Alliance building

The survey does not offer an option to responsibly use PPEL and SAVE funding on current schools when asking what advice respondents would offer to address its facilities.

One survey question refers to the reason voters rejected the $220 million bond referendum.

The bond would have included building a $127 million new middle school at an undisclosed location, likely in Robins, far outside of the city’s core. Though not specifically cited in the referendum, nor in the survey, closing Wilson and Roosevelt middle schools, both in working-class neighborhoods on the west side of Cedar Rapids, was part of that plan.

Residents of the Cedar Rapids School District, which also includes portions of Hiawatha, Robins and Palo, can request a survey for each adult in the household if they did not receive one, by calling the district at: (319) 558-2202.

Surveys must be returned by April 22, 2024, with results presented to the School Board in May.

More: District pauses Harrison demolition

The Cedar Rapids Community School District is soliciting feedback through a survey on why its $220 million bond referendum failed. (photo/Cindy Hadish)


Vicki Decker

Thanks for the article! I definitely plan on submitting the survey.

Just one thing regarding the article, I noticed the word million is missing after $220 in the lede.

Regarding the survey, I strongly disliked the wording under Harrison Elementary School portion.

There it is mentioned that it was recommended both Harrison and Madison be closed and replacing Harrison with a new school. Clever wording. That portion of the survey deliberately overlooks the fact that Harrison would be demolished. That, I’m certain, would evoke emotion, something the school district doesn’t want.


Vicki Decker Dean

    Cindy Hadish

    Thank you, Vicki! That “million” is an important detail! Agreed on the survey’s wording.


Thank you Cindy and Save CR Heritage for this excellent article. I will be using the data to complete the survey.

Lisa Pike

What I want to know is how much it cost them to print and send out all of these surveys! I haven’t looked but I’m sure they’re probably paid for return postage as well. Cedar Rapids has twice rejected this already. There has to be some way that we can get them to just stop with the ridiculousness and the wastefulness!

Leave a Reply

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