Parents of Bettendorf students who will be attending the new Mark Twain Elementary School peppered three school officials Wednesday, Feb. 20, with questions about the school's temporary move to a Ross College facility in the fall.
Questions for school Superintendent Michael Raso, Mark Twain Principal Caroline Olson, and Director of Operations Chris Andrus ranged from transportation to school safety to asking for a school zone along the 2100 block of Kimberly Road. Students in second through fifth grade will make the temporary move to the college facility while the new elementary school building is built.
About 80 people attended the hour-long informational meeting.
Raso said he wanted to have informational meetings so staff will have plenty of time to consider the concerns of parents and make any necessary changes to the plan.
“Part of the process is get information and questions about things that we haven’t thought of and get the issues addressed,” Raso said.
Though parents have been sent the school transition plan for the fall, they were unhappy with the process that led to deciding to move to Ross College.
Anne Dunbar has one child heading to the new Mark Twain and another heading to middle school. She said the way things were handled by the district left many with little confidence in the plan.
“I think there was a chance to have a lot of confidence if we had brought the community into the process, but the way that the plan was developed behind closed doors and presented to the public on about two days' notice and then voted upon, it really just diminishes the confidence of the public and the way the process has gone forward,” Dunbar said.
“You can feel the unease of the parents that are going to possibly be sending their kids to Ross College next fall,” she said.
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Dunbar said for her, transportation and traffic issues were among her biggest concerns, “because we knew Interstate 74 was going to be rerouted and it didn’t seem the district was fully on top of that issue.” Even with four lanes, the roadway, which is in Davenport on the west side, is a busy thoroughfare.
Additionally, Dunbar said that the kids will be going inside one building “that sits next to an empty building and an adult college and we know nothing about the people we’re going to be sharing this building with, or what rigors they put their students through before accepting them and allowing them on their properties.”
In August, the school board unanimously voted to close Thomas Jefferson Elementary and consolidate by sending its students to a new Mark Twain. The old Mark Twain will be demolished.
Greg Smith will have one child at Ross while the other will be at Thomas Jefferson, as pre-kindergarten through first grade students will stay at Thomas Jefferson until the new Mark Twain building opens. The transition won’t be easy, he said.
“I feel like the school district has not done a great job of informing us,” he added. “I don’t have confidence in the school board. I don’t have confidence in the superintendent. It’s the fact that they are not transparent.
“I believe the no vote on the bond issue was a clear message from the community that they did not want this to happen, and they chose to go through and essentially not listen to what the voters have to say,” Smith added.
It was initially hoped that the new Mark Twain would be ready for the 2019-2020 school year, but Raso said the new school won’t be ready until the end of November.
Jerod Engler, vice president of construction at Bush Construction, said the plan will cost $359,000, including $312,000 for the lease. With this plan, no students will be on site during the demolition and peak construction of the building. The Ross College building will include parking and a drop-off area.