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ICCSD School Board votes to close Hills Elementary

The closure of Hills Elementary comes at a time of massive budget cuts for ICCSD and other school districts across Iowa.
Madelyn Johnson
In attendance at the school board meeting was Gavin Gifford, 9. Gavin attends Hills Elementary and is currently in 3rd grade.

On Mar. 26, 2024, the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) School Board voted unanimously to close Hills Elementary School in Hills, Iowa. The decision comes after a challenging year of budget cuts in the district, with these decisions being made by the ICCSD School Board. With this vote, the school district will save almost $1.66 million in the next fiscal school year and become one step closer to the $7.5 million that needs to be cut over the next two years.

“Last year we cut millions from our budget by eliminating 11 administrator positions, offering early retirement plans to teachers – many who weren’t ready to stop teaching. But they left, because it was in the best interest of the school district. We delayed the purchase of much needed curriculum,” said Lisa Williams, school board representative. 

But like most cases, there are always two sides of a story. The school board meeting was filled with parents, students, and members of the Hills community, as they protested the potential closing of their school. Many pleaded with board members, asking them to take more time before making an official decision. 

“This is an issue you need to think more on. There are so many more parts to this. You need to take your time and consider [this],” stated Jamal Trapadoa, resident of Hills, Iowa.

Hills was inducted into the ICCSD nearly 60 years ago. With the opening of this school came economic opportunities in the town, as well as higher property value. Over the years, people have chosen to raise their kids in Hills, partly due to the close proximity and academic success of Hills Elementary. In 2021, they were recognized by the U.S Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon recipient, naming Hills as a high performing school. With the closure of this school, Hills residents are frustrated by the impending lack of an elementary school in their town. 

“You guys are managing people’s money, managing people’s children…I have changed a whole bunch of stuff because I thought it was the right thing to do,” exclaimed Megan Moorehead, Hills resident. Moorehead moved to Hills seven years ago, excited at the prospect of her children being able to attend Hills Elementary. 

Also represented in the crowd was past Hills Elementary students, now choosing to raise families of their own in Hills. Emily Hudacheck is a Hills City Council member. She emphasizes the importance of making the Hills community feel valued.

“It’s time to show the community-but more importantly the students-that they matter, and their voices are being heard,” Hudacheck stated at the meeting.

School board president, Ruthina Malone, said the board takes full responsibility for the decision of closing Hills. 

“On behalf of the board, I am truly sorry to students, families, and community members for tough decisions that have ramifications for everyone in ICCSD,” Malone stated. School board members emphasize that this situation has everything to do with issues being fabricated at the state level. 

“Nobody wants to fire teachers, increase class sizes, reduce busing, or eliminate programs, but these are our only options if the legislature continues to divert our much needed resources to private schools…This is not a partisan issue, this is an Iowan issue. It’s only going to get worse if we don’t hold Des Moines accountable,” Williams expressed while addressing the crowd at the meeting. 

ICCSD is one of many schools being forced to make cuts to their budget, and simultaneously being forced into making hard decisions for the school district. The Des Moines Public School District recently announced a 14-million dollar budget cut for the 2024-2025 school year. Linn-Mar Community School District is reducing 50 staff members, including 19 teachers, as part of their 2.5 million dollar budget cut. School board member Lisa Williams sees these budget cuts as a direct result to laws and actions being taken at the state level. Citing the recent voucher bill, and other public school cuts by the state, Williams emphasizes the role that the Iowa legislature has played in this decision. 

“It is the result of chronic and persistent underfunding by the state that has been going on for the past decade…We have been slashing the budget for the last 18 months,” Williams stated. Williams also urged the Hills community to direct their anger at the state government. 

“I hope you all start advocating for public education the way that you have advocated to keep your school open because it is impressive,” Williams said. “You are a force.”

Only time will tell how this decision will impact the Hills community, along with ICCSD as a whole. This will not be the last hard decision that this school board makes, with many more difficult cuts to be made in the future.

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About the Contributor
Madelyn Johnson
Madelyn Johnson, Social Media Manager
Madelyn is a Junior at Liberty and is a Social Media Manager for The Live Wire. This is her 3rd year in journalism, 2nd year on staff. She runs cross country and track and is also a member of the speech team. In her free time, you can usually find her hanging out with friends and watching romcoms.