Campaign Description

Here's what this campaign is about:

Ensuring equal opportunities in curriculum and programming for all students

Providing our students and faculty with safe, healthy, technology-driven learning environments

Committing to our neighborhood schools

Guaranteeing responsible stewardship of public funds

Celebrating the diversity within our district

Engaging parents to become active participants in the schools

Making data-driven decisions with measurable results

Email us at or call 331-6746

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Recently, we have heard the term "neighborhood school" quite a bit, specifically based on the results of district wide surveys which showed a 63.8% majority of those surveyed felt that even smaller elementary schools in the district should remain open.

Consider these items:
  • Growing up and attending Lemme Elementary when it was still a relatively new school (I'm aging myself here) most of the students attending were within walking distance of the school.  There were some who lived out on what was then called Rural Route 5 by Fairway Golf Course (now Windsor Ridge).  My friends who grew up on RR5 have recently reaffirmed to me that Lemme was considered by them to be their "neighborhood school" although they could not walk there and relied on bussing.

  • Shimek enrolled 199 students last year.  Of those children, 92 are eligible for bussing and  only 40 live within 0.5 mile.  Our family drives 1.3 miles to Shimek and many parents drive 5 or more miles.  Most parents at Shimek refer to it as their "neighborhood school," although relatively few can walk there.

  • Many of my friends whose kids attend Lincoln live in the Manville Heights area, but then others live north of I-80 in the region stretching all the way to the Coralville Reservoir.  Of the 246 students enrolled last year, 126 rode busses and only 65 came from the surrounding 0.5 mile radius.  I know my friends both north of I-80 and in Manville Heights refer to Lincoln as their "neighborhood school"

  • Longfellow enrolled 334 students last year from the immediate surrounding area as well as the Windsor Ridge area east of Scott Blvd, 3 miles away.  82 (24.6%) of those kids are bussed and 182 live within 0.5 mile radius. 

  • Hills Elementary is the only school in Hills.  108 were enrolled there last year.  62 rode busses and only 28 lived within a half mile. It is truly a neighborhood school because it's the only school in the community. 

I suppose the point I'm trying to make with regard to defining neighborhood schools, is that while the term neighborhood school seems to indicate a geographic proximity, in reality many students live nowhere near their perceived neighborhood school.  In our own district 7,080 elementary school children enrolled last year and 2,666 (37%) rode busses while only 3400 (just under 50%) lived within 0.5 miles of a school. 

Perhaps the term neighborhood school is, in fact, a misnomer.  Perhaps a more appropriate term to use is community school, which implies that the schools are not necessarily bound by geography, but are rather a small close-knit community within the district where families feel a connection to their teachers, administration and other families. 

Committing to our neighborhood schools as I have listed as a core belief of this campaign implies that we should work to find ways to use our existing elementary facilities as best we can in order to create communities that exist throughout our district where students and their families can feel at home.  

One caveat though, is that these communities are the people of a school, not the actual bricks and mortar of the building.  When a group of students is supported by strong parent involvement and caring teachers, those children will succeed as long as that strong community and support follows them.

Consider for example, going to summer camp. The other campers in your cabin are your community, not the cabin itself.  Your cabin mates are your closest relationships within the larger total pool of campers.  If the cabins are equitable (more on this later...) then the camp experience should be pretty comparable for all campers, regardless of what cabin they are assigned. When you sign up for summer camp, you sign up for the enriching, fun experience of attending a camp and you know that no matter what cabin you are assigned, you will have the opportunity to have a great camp experience. THis can be considered as a great analogy for our district. (Can you tell that our oldest was at YMCA Camp Wapsie last week?)

As we look ahead beyond the ongoing facilities discussions to implementation of the ICCSD Diversity Policy, obviously we will be reexamining boundaries and considering a multitude of creative options and ideas.  We aren’t the first district to do this.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.   We DO, however, have to realize that our concept of neighborhood schools may no longer be defined by walkability, but more by the close-knit community that each school represents.  

1 comment:

  1. Right on the nose! Yes the community aspect is important, but to have a place to convene this community is also important.