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Introduction Commentary - December 2016
By Dr. Brad Buck, Superintendent

Buck_Photo_ColorThe Cedar Rapids Community School District is committed to delivering on a promise of Excellence for All! To help us achieve this goal we have identified a Master Facility Planning Committee and have begun a journey to Reimagine, Re-envision, and Reinvest in our students and school facilities. This effort is driven by a number of important factors and is supported and directed by the Board of Education. We believe that we have a responsibility to our students, staff members, and community to investigate all options as we consider the factors impacting this conversation. These include:

  • ever-increasing pressure on funding streams to support facility needs and improvements,
  • potential replacement of schools,
  • the possibility of needing new school facilities, necessary changes within the learning environment, and
  • the location of District families within the community.

We remain grateful that District patrons voted in 2014 to increase the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) to the maximum allowed by law. This fund generates approximately $9 million dollars each school year.  Unfortunately, we have identified annual needs of approximately $20 million dollars. This includes such maintenance essentials as resurfacing of roofs, replacing hallway tile, and updating restrooms to meet ADA compliance. With each year, we actually fall further behind on meeting the general maintenance needs at our schools.   

There are also needs related to a common set of requirements that was established for each of our schools through a collaborative stakeholder process which concluded in April 2013. Examples of the common characteristics that were agreed upon include the following: front entry security, modernized heating and cooling systems, common student meeting spaces, and more. Additionally, we are working to forecast future facility needs to meet projected future increases in student enrollment. The Secure an Advanced Vision for Education or SAVE Fund currently has 61 million dollars in unobligated reserves available for use in remodeling existing school buildings or constructing new ones.  Even so, this is significantly less than the 200 million dollars in identified needs that emerged in the past using a similar process. 

To address these critical issues and factors, the Master Facilities Committee, which includes a diverse group of parents, students, employees, business and industry leaders, and other community members, has engaged in large group conversation, as well as sub-committee discussions around the areas below. Sub-committee work is being supported by subject matter experts within each topic area. 

  • Finance subcommittee members will engage in conversations around District finances including the use of the General Fund, Physical Plant & Equipment Levy Fund (PPEL) and Secure and Advance Vision for Education Fund (SAVE), for use in financing improvements to our existing schools and possible future schools.
  • The District Program Offerings subcommittee will engage in conversations on such topics as innovative learning, 21st Century Learning, students with special needs, English language learners, and other program offerings that influence existing and future facilities design.
  • Conversations of the Grade Configuration subcommittee will focus on how our student grade levels are configured and the alignment of District boundaries at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
  • The New Schools / School Renovations subcommittee will engage in discussions about what key elements or “triggers” should be considered when determining where to locate a new school or when and how to renovate an existing school.
  • The focus of the Closing and Repurposing of Schools subcommittee will be on identifying the key elements or “triggers” that should be considered when determining whether to close or repurpose an existing school.

A representative of each sub-committee has written the narratives published here to showcase the important work of the group and describe the process to the community. Community members are invited to join the process and provide their input at public forums. We have scheduled these from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on December 13 (Kennedy High School cafeteria), December 14 (Washington High School cafeteria), and December 15 (Jefferson High School band room). A community input survey will also be available on our website ( starting on December 13; it will remain available through the month.

A District Facilities Plan will ultimately be submitted to the Board of Education for consideration on September 25, 2017, with the consideration for final Board adoption planned for October 23, 2017. 

Dr. Brad Buck is the Superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District; and