The Bettendorf School Board in the coming weeks will be re-evaluating its proposed facilities plan, which included consolidating Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain elementary schools and building a new school, after it failed to win approval during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Board members voted 4-3 against the plan.
Then, after a motion to vote on a plan that did not include the Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain consolidation or pool improvements at Bettendorf High School, board members voted 3-3 with one abstention, essentially sending the plan back to district administration.
“I think I’m just going to sit back and do a little reflecting on what just happened and where we want to go from here,” Superintendent Michael Raso said after the votes.
Board president Gordon Staley said that he and board vice president Stacy Struck and Raso will work together to determine when the facilities plan will once again be placed before the board.
Before the vote was taken, Staley told other board members that the plan “is directional.”
“The board that’s elected in 2019 will decide how this all comes down,” Staley said. “It just gives future boards direction. This is not set in stone.”
Board member Richard Lynch, however, said, “To be perfectly frank, this seems rushed to me.” It felt, he said, as though the administration and the board was “shooting from the hip.”
Board member Andrew Champion said, “We’ve never engaged the community in conversations” about the plan and the closing of the elementary schools. “We’ve allowed them to talk at meetings,” he said, but conversation was lacking.
Struck said she doubted if the board would find common ground, however, she added, “I think we need to move forward.”
Board member Michael Pyevich, favored the plan saying “it’s the right thing to do,” and will save taxpayers money.
Board member Paul Castro also supported the plan, saying that the trend of consolidating schools and building new to save money and be more efficient is happening in many places. To those who wondered if more information was needed, he said. “I don’t know how much more information we need.”
Struck, Champion, Lynch and board member Adam Holland voted against the plan while Castro, Pyevich and Staley voted for it.
When it was moved to approve the plan without the Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain issue, as well as without the pool improvements at the high school, Struck, Champion and Holland voted yes, while Staley, Castro and Pyevich voted no. Lynch abstained.
“We’re at ground zero,” Struck said.
Had the plan gone through, a future board would have considered a three-section school to replace Jefferson, a one-section facility with fewer than 150 students, and the two-section Twain school, which has close to 300 students. Both schools were built more than 60 years ago.
In other district news, the new 62,500-square-foot Grant Wood Elementary is moving forward. The old school, built 58 years ago, will come down after school lets out for the summer.
Also, Russell Construction announced that bids will be going out today for upgrading the HVAC system at the high school. The cost is expected to be about $6,679,416.
The board unanimously approved moving forward with the upgrade.
Tim Smith, of Russell, said the equipment, control system and the boilers, installed in 1973, have reached the end of their lifespan and are in need of replacing.
The work will be completed in mid-August, in time for the new school year.