Under a new facilities plan approved Monday by the Bettendorf School Board, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will undergo infrastructure updates and a new, larger facility will be built on the Mark Twain Elementary School property.
The board voted 6-1 in favor of the plan recommended by Superintendent Mike Raso, who called it the “best short- and long-term plan for the district.” After pushing for further discussions on the matter about 100 minutes into the meeting, board member Richard Lynch voted against the proposal, labeling it the most expensive option on the table.
A previous plan suggested closing both schools and constructing a three-section replacement, an estimated $14 million project that drew a lot of opposition from residents in recent months. It failed to pass, 4-3, at the school board’s Feb. 13 meeting.
The identified needs at Thomas Jefferson, including the addition of a secure front entrance to the school and a partial roof replacement, could cost more than $1.6 million, Raso said.
Board member Stacey Struck, who voted against the previous plan, deemed Raso’s latest pitch a “good compromise for the community.” She also said this move allows the board the opportunity to spend the next couple of years “figuring out how to attract students to the district.”
Lynch shared his prediction that this will lead to the closure of Thomas Jefferson in the future, which drew a brief burst of applause from the standing-room-only crowd at the district’s administrative center.
“It’s a way of making a decision without making a decision,” he said.
Struck, in response to her fellow board member’s comments, later said, “I think there’s no way we can predict that right now.”
Thomas Jefferson is a one-section facility with fewer than 150 students and Mark Twain is a two-section school, which has close to 300 students. Both schools were built more than 60 years ago.
As an alternative to Raso’s recommendation, Lynch presented the possibility of building a new two-section school on the Mark Twain property, which did not receive any support from other board members.
“Let’s make sure we’ve thought through all the consequences before we make the choice, and committing to build a two-section school keeps all the doors open,” he said. “This (Raso’s plan) makes it difficult to change our mind if we need to in the future.”
Raso’s six-year facilities plan also includes about $12 million in improvements spread out among two elementary schools, the middle school and the high school.
In order of priority, these are the projects:
• Move Thomas Edison Academy to a new leased location and sell the current property.
• At Paul Norton Elementary, renovate the entrance for $925,000, remodel the existing gym/commons for $900,000 and add a music room addition for $650,000. Total cost: $2.5 million.
• At Herbert Hoover Elementary, expand and renovate the entrance for $550,000 and renovate the gym for $350,000. Total cost: $900,000.
• At the high school, build a fitness center addition for $1.5 million, an auxiliary gym addition for $2.5 million and a wrestling gym addition for $2.5 million. Total cost: $6.5 million.
• At the middle school, add a science room addition for $860,000, a music room addition for $650,000 and a STEAM room addition for $650,000. Total cost: $2.16 million.
Planning for the work at the elementary schools, including Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain, will begin immediately.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Raso said. “Now we’ll really get down into the weeds.”