We all have heard about NIMBY-ism, the "Not in my back yard" attitude that prevails when neighborhoods are threatened by change, but the latest "draft" action by the Iowa City Community School District pertaining to area school facilities has some parents in Iowa City fighting for their neighborhood. The plan calls for the closing of the current Roosevelt school and building a larger one in the Crossing neighborhood which would cause parents in the Roosevelt area to bus their children and remove a central meeting place for the community. Lori Enloe and other parents in the Roosevelt school area are fighting to keep their neighborhood school in their backyard. For them it is an effort to improve the school rather than replace it elsewhere.
The School District sees this as a strategic move to lessen the overcrowding in some west side elementary schools and as a way to support student learning as "research shows without doubt that concentrated poverty and ethnicity make it more difficult to reduce and eliminate achievement gaps. These factors will play an important role in determining district facility decisions."
Weighing in on their behalf are parents in other older neighborhoods who fear their schools could suffer a similar fate and the city's mayor who has grave concerns about the sustainability of neighborhoods if neighborhood schools go the way of the dodo. In a memo to fellow city council members, Bailey says "This would have a
devastating effect on these neighborhoods and the City goals to encourage reinvestment in residential properties in the Central District and to achieve a healthy balance of rental and owner-occupied housing in the district older neighborhoods."
Additionally, groups like the Sierra Club, FAIR! and others are studying the issues of the strategic facilities plan from an environmental and economic justice standpoint. One particular point of controversy is whether the research cited by the school district is accurate. For instance lower achievement is tied by research to quality of school facilities, quality of instruction, and student support systems. Causality based on race or SES is often cited because it is easy to correlate, more so than qualitative measures.
The Iowa City Community School Board meets next Tuesday (2/24) at 7 pm at the district office on Dubuque St. It is likely that a large number of people will want to speak during the public discussion period. The School District is also planning public meetings on March 2 at 7 pm at West High School and March 7 at Northwest Junior High at 10 am.