Below you will find some answers to frequently asked questions about the Cedar Falls Community School District’s efforts to address needs at the high school and find the best possible solutions to those needs.
What are the needs at Cedar Falls High School?
In examining Cedar Falls High School, the board and administration have identified four key areas of need:
1) Enhance the safety and security of all high school students and staff.
The proposed new location, near the intersection of West 27th Street and Hudson Road in Cedar Falls, would feature a controlled entrance that would be secured and monitored. It would require face-to-face interaction for anyone to gain access to the building. It’s worth noting that, once our ongoing elementary school construction and renovation work is complete, the high school will be the only current building in the district without a single, secured access point for visitors.
A new location would make parking safer and more efficient for students, staff and guests. Currently, the safety of our students is too often compromised due to the fact many students have to park on residential streets that do not have a good line of site or controlled intersections. Our staff and visitors also regularly struggle to find parking spots.
2) Provide a better high school location that will expand student learning opportunities.
The proposed new location for the high school would allow the district to achieve a number of things for our students, including:
- Access to a more robust partnership with the University of Northern Iowa
- Efficient use of green space, practice facilities, physical educational spaces and multi-use recreational spaces
- A single entry system for a safer and more secure learning environment for students
The location would also provide expanded college-level course offerings for our high school students.
3) Improve and optimize efficiencies across the board.
As we’ve seen with our existing joint tennis court facility, collaboration and shared costs lead to greater efficiencies. Doing so will allow us to address and overcome scheduling challenges. We aim to optimize the spaces on and adjacent to a new high school site, using them for physical education, practices, intramurals and co-curricular activities.
And, by working with UNI, we can provide better facilities to students while reducing costs.
4) Make the most of the money taxpayers invest in their local schools
As a school district, we look to strike a balance between providing exceptional programs and services to our students with meeting the needs of our local taxpayers. To that end, we are working to find a solution that is fiscally responsible and maximizes the investment taxpayers have made in our schools and students.
Where would the new high school be located?
In 2017, the board approved the purchase of 50 acres of land from the university with the intention of eventually building a new high school, which is west of UNI Dome and McLeod Center.
Why is the board considering a new high school?
Enrollment at Cedar Falls High School has rapidly increased over the past several years. Current projections indicate the school will be over capacity by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. The district also projects that total enrollment throughout all of our schools will grow by more than 1,000 students over the next decade.
What will students get out of being close to the UNI campus?
The board has, on a preliminary basis, discussed the possibility of building a new high school on West 27th Street, directly west of the UNI campus. Doing so would allow for a more robust partnership with the university, providing a greater variety of course offerings for our high school students.
Currently, Cedar Falls High School has approximately 70 students per year that take courses on the UNI campus. Although the current high school is roughly the same distance from the center of campus as the proposed new location, walkability and access to the campus would be greatly enhanced. This would allow for the potential expansion of UNI bus services and a better flow of transportation at this site.
By working with the University of Northern Iowa, we could provide better facilities to students while reducing costs.
What would happen if the district did not address needs at the high school?
Growth in the Cedar Falls community has led to capacity issues at the current Cedar Falls High School. At the current growth rate, the high school will be over capacity by the start of the 2019-20 school year. Overall, CFCSD is projected to grow by more than 1,000 students over the next 10 years, which would place even greater capacity demands on the high school.
What is SAVE and how would it impact the school district’s ability to fund building projects?
Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), originally passed in Black Hawk County in 1999, was approved by voters in all 99 Iowa counties by 2008. It is different than other school funding with a statewide allocation and is meant only for school infrastructure projects.
The Cedar Falls Community School District has used SAVE funding for multiple projects to improve our facilities. It has had a significant impact on keeping local property taxes low and will significantly reduce the cost of building a new high school. If SAVE is extended at the state level, the district will be able to borrow against anticipated revenue at a conservative level, using those funds to offset its General Obligation Bond expense.
How would a potential referendum affect my property taxes?
If a referendum were to pass, the Cedar Falls Community School District's portion of residents’ tax bills would increase by less than $11 per month on an assessed home value of $100,000.
Why is the district only considering a new high school for grades 10 through 12?
In examining options, the district and board found that building a high school for grades nine through 12 would add 25 to 30 percent to the total cost of the project. The board also believes that a high school with 10th- through 12th-grade students is the best fit for Cedar Falls in the long term. As a result, the board has decided to explore 10-12 high school to both deliver the best possible solution to students and make the most efficient use of funds possible.
Could the district simply make cuts in other areas to address needs at the high school?
While the board and district leaders have worked very hard to make the most of taxpayers’ investments in their schools, we do not believe that we can effectively address needs at the high school by reducing access to programs and services at our other schools. Cuts to programs and staff would hinder our ability to deliver the best possible educational experience possible to our students.
How would a new high school improve safety and security for students and staff?
The proposed new high school location would feature a single entrance that would be secured and monitored. It will require face-to-face interaction for anyone to gain access to the building.
It’s worth noting that, once our ongoing elementary school construction and renovation work is complete, the high school will be the only building in the district without a single, secured access point for visitors.
A new location would also make parking safer and more efficient for students, staff and guests. Currently, high school students who walk, bike or drive to school face considerable challenges finding parking spots that allow for them to go off-site for co-curricular, extracurricular or college-level coursework, and then return in a timely fashion. The safety of our students is too often compromised due to the fact many students have to park on residential streets that do not have a good line of site or controlled intersections.
Additionally, our staff often struggle to find parking spots. Visitors and parents typically avoid coming to the building due to a lack of parking. Our goal is to embrace, encourage and enhance our engagement with the community—and remove barriers to doing so whenever we can.
Will the community get to vote on this?
Although the board has not yet decided to place a referendum question on the ballot, it is likely that community members will be asked to vote on a proposed solution. This process will be informed by the community through a survey and informational sessions. We will provide more information and updates in the coming weeks and months.
Have other districts in Iowa passed a bond for new buildings recently?
Iowa City $191.5 million on September 12, 2017
Waukee $117 million on February 6, 2018
Ames $110 million on April 3, 2018
Iowa Bond Issue Law
In Iowa, any new issuance of bonds by a school district requires voter approval. If a bond issue gets defeated, a school district must wait 60 days before issuing another ballot question. The County Auditor serves as the responsible election authority for school bond elections. During odd-numbered years, elections can be held during the first Tuesday in February and April, or schools can hold elections during the last Tuesday in June or the second Tuesday in September. In even-numbered years, elections can be held during the first Tuesday in February, April, and December. School districts can also hold bond elections during the second Tuesday in September in an even numbered year. All wording of ballot questions must be approved by the County Election Commissioner. A super-majority vote of 60 percent is needed to approve any bond issue or bond taxes. All school bond elections in Iowa are considered to be special elections under Iowa Law.