Museum exterior
Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | In separate Monday meetings, the Sioux City School Board and Sioux City Council nearly simultaneously approved a sharing agreement that will allow the district to re-purpose unused portions of the downtown public museum for specialty courses. 

The school district in mid-July approved a purchase agreement with Museum Building Property Inc. to pay $1.5 million for 75,000 square feet of the building at 607 Fourth St. That purchasing-process step necessitated the new lease agreement between the city and the district.

The city council voted first on the agreement, passing it 4-0, with Councilman Dan Moore -- who serves as the school district's legal counsel on real estate matters -- abstaining. The school board followed just over an hour later with a 7-0 vote, so the 50-year lease has been set, at $1 per year.

The district's plans include constructing new rooms in a portion of the museum building that at one time housed a Delta Air Lines call center before the center closed in 2012, which resulted in 165 lost jobs. A large portion of the building was converted into a more expansive home for the public museum. 

The lease says common area charges will be split between the museum and the school district based on the square footage used. The museum will be responsible for 45 percent of the costs with the exception of the elevators, where it will be responsible for 20 percent. 

The move is seen by the district as a more centralized way to offer Life Academy and Career Academy courses, which have previously been spread through all three high schools -- West, North and East -- as well as Western Iowa Tech Community College and the downtown Ho-Chunk Centre. The classrooms could be converted by the 2018-19 school year. 

The goal is to soon no longer use the high schools for the Life Academy and Career Academy courses. They will then only be held in Ho-Chunk and the museum, which is also where school district administrators are located in the wing called the Education Service Center.

The district's growing Career Academy allows students to take specialty courses in 36 so-called pathways, covering business and marketing, family and consumer science, health science and industrial technology.

"The Career Academy classes are open to all high school students who elect to participate. The Sioux City Career Academy even offers these classes to students who attend private schools, homeschool, or from any other area public school districts," said school district spokeswoman Amanda Mayo.

Most Sioux City Career Academy courses follow a sequence, offer college credit, and in many cases offer a level of certification toward the workforce or further post-secondary study.

Life Academy courses have been held at WIT, but college officials have said they need that space for other uses. The Ho-Chunk Centre space is leased for Career Academy courses at a cost of $75,000 annually through 2024.

"Next year, courses will still be held in the Southern Hills Mall and Western Iowa Tech as well as in the Ho-Chunk Centre, at the Harry Hopkins Campus, and at all three of our high schools. However, the long-term goal is to use just the Harry Hopkins Campus for a portion of the Career Academy courses (in Ho-Chunk) while also offering Career Academy and Life Academy courses in the expanded downtown campus at the Education Service Center," Mayo said.

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County and education reporter

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