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Public comments on the high school modernization plan are mixed

By Thomas Nelson,

The Board of Education heard a range of public comments Monday night on a plan to modernize the Charles City High School.

On Dec. 19, BLDD Architects Senior Associate Jean Underwood had presented a new, two-story concept of what the high school’s floor plan could look like under a $22 million to $23 million renovation budget.

Superintendent Dan Cox said since putting the design on the district website they’ve received 11 responses.

“This is not the final plan that we’re going to adopt,” Cox said. “What we most wanted to know was the reaction to big conceptions.”

Nancy Simerson was the first person at the meeting Monday to comment on the overall design, going up to a project display of the plan as she spoke.

Simerson mentioned changing around the placement of the theater and commons area.

“I don’t see any wrestling room and I don’t see any weight room,” Simerson said. “Honestly that weight room is too small, it’s been there for 20 years.”

Simerson also hopes that the shop area is going to be remodeled, she said.

“High schools are expensive, they’re more expensive than middle schools,” Simerson said, citing the cost estimates. “What I’m wondering is, can we really afford this?”

Simerson was concerned that the board would “cheat” out on the plan when it comes to cost, she said.

Cory Mutch spoke to the board next and agreed with Simerson overall.

“Talk with people around town, our first impression was, no offense, but everybody thought, wow that’s sloppy,” Mutch said regarding the drawing of the design. “It made a bad first impression.”

Mutch was worried that only 11 people made comments on the design.

“That’s not what I heard. I heard a lot of comments,” Mutch said. “It’s a little disheartening, because you want the public to speak and they’re not speaking.”

In regards to the overall design, Mutch suggested moving the auditorium to allow for more parking.

Board member Josh Mack also mentioned that the amount of comments the board received was concerning, and he wanted more input.

“This is the infancy of the first plan,” Mack said. “We’re hopeful as this process moves along we’ll put some zeros behind that 11.”

Anne Benning spoke and had concerns about the timeline for the project.

Public comments

Also Monday, the board considered a change to the public comments portion of its meetings, increasing the time allowed per person from two minutes to three minutes.

“At times two minutes is not enough,” said board President Jason Walker.

The board currently allows comments during both the public comment session and during the discussion of agenda items, even though the written policy only allows one or the other.

“It’s difficult to be transparent if you don’t allow the public to ask questions during the comments,” said board member Scott Dight. “If it starts to get into a back-and-forth with someone, that’s why you have a gavel on the table.”

The board vote unanimously to increase the public comment time to three minutes per person during the beginning of the board sessions, and during specific agenda items.

During public comments regarding the change to public comments, Simerson spoke up again.

“The people do want to be heard,” she said.

Capitol lobbying visit

Board members set Jan. 24 as the date to visit the Iowa Capitol as part of the district’s annual lobbying trip.

Charles City district representatives will be joined by representatives from Osage, Riceville, Howard-Winneshiek, Turkey Valley, New Hampton, Nashua- Plainfield, Clarksville, North Butler and Rudd-Rockford- Marble Rock school districts.


The board approved a resolution supporting the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System, or IPERS, to send to the Iowa press, the governor and all representatives and senators of the state Legislature.

Closed session

The board went into a closed session to readmit three students who were subject to previous disciplinary action.

They also extended the long-term suspension of one student until March 23. The student will continue to be restricted from all school grounds and events during that suspension period.

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