A: While each board member may have arrived at his decision differently, a number of overarching themes led to those decisions:
1. Since West Sioux consolidated in the late 1950s, the board has made efforts to make the entire district inclusive of the communities and rural areas; we want all members to feel they are part of the West Sioux School District. Because of this belief, the board believes that the district should maintain a building in Ireton:
• The West Sioux School District’s two largest towns are Hawarden and Ireton, and having a school in each supports those communities and helps foster investment in the school system. Looking at the consolidated districts in our area, districts with multiple buildings often locate them across the district: George & Little Rock, Boyden & Hull, Alton & Orange City, Paullina & Primghar. Of course, that’s not the only model, but it is one that can and does work.
• The current MS/HS is located on the western edge of the district. Locating the elementary in Ireton provides more geographical balance.
2. Building in Hawarden presented logistical concerns. The architect indicated the minimum amount of space needed for a school meeting our needs would be 5 acres. Even at 5 acres, we may need to look at a 2-story building and limited playground space. As we looked at our current spaces in Hawarden, nothing seemed to fit the bill:
• Land south of the MS/HS: Approximately 3 acres, so significantly too small.
• Land north of the MS/HS: Approximately 5 acres, but would result in additional expenses from moving the small baseball diamonds and determining a new driveway for the shop area.
• Current site of Hawarden Elementary: Approximately 4 acres, so still too small.
3. The other issue with building on our current Hawarden properties is that we significantly limit ourselves for future expansion. For instance, the areas to the north and south of the MS/HS are being considered in our longterm plans for expanding fine arts and career/technical education. Likewise, building on the same spot as the current elementary means no opportunity for expansion in the future. The board wants to be proactive and look toward the future, rather than just being reactive as situations arise.
4. The board looked for efficiencies in how we planned elementary space; combining the elementary into a single building structure helps achieve efficiencies in teachers, counselors, kitchen staff and processes, custodial staff, and utilities. While we could achieve these same efficiencies at an elementary school in Hawarden, the other factors – wanting to keep a presence across the district, facing logistical issues in Hawarden, and planning for future growth – led us to propose an elementary school building in Ireton.
Finally, an aspect of the proposed plans that is on people’s minds is busing. The board definitely considered the issue of busing when proposing this location. As you know, we already bus students across the district: PK-1 to Ireton, and 2-12 to Hawarden. There are concerns about the additional busing of Hawarden students to Ireton for grades 2-5. While we understand some of the uneasiness of transporting additional students to Ireton, buses have proven to be one of the safest vehicles for transportation, and our drivers take their roles seriously. The additional stops being planned would make our students’ transitions to and from safer as well.
The board recognizes that our proposed location in Ireton is not necessarily a perfect solution. Rarely does a perfect solution exist; rather, we choose a solution that meets most of our prioritized needs. We believe the current proposal is a solution that builds 21st-century learning spaces for our children, achieves greater efficiencies in building maintenance and support, keeps our options open for the future, and fosters the best possible learning environment for our students.