SIOUX CITY | With just one member opposing, the Sioux City school board voted Monday to close 111-year-old Whittier Elementary School, the district’s second-oldest building, at the conclusion of next school year.
After considering the idea for more than a year and giving Whittier’s closure extra attention this fall as the district looks to open the new Washington Elementary in 2015, the board voted 6-1 to close the 1902 school at 4820 Fourth Avenue.
Paul Speidel, a newly elected board member and Whittier parent, has been the only member to vocally oppose the closure. His daughter at Whittier is set to graduate next school year as a member of the school's last class.
“Only one person up here has to go home and tell their daughter we closed their school,” said Speidel during the meeting. “Only one. And that’s me.”
Just one other Whittier parent from a sparse audience went before the board to speak.
Tito Parker, 36, also has a daughter who will be among Whittier’s final graduating class. He urged the board to consider how a smaller school like Whittier attracts about180 students who live outside the school’s boundaries.
“There’s a lot of things people don’t see when they make these decisions without going into the buildings,” said Parker, who is also a Whittier staff member.
Most of Whittier’s in-district students would attend the new Washington Elementary in the 2500 block of South Martha Street, and about 20 would go to Spalding Park Elementary. The roughly 200 Whittier students living outside the school’s boundary would attend their home schools or request transfers.
Whittier teachers and staff would find new jobs at Washington, except for positions already in existence at Washington such as custodians, secretaries and a principal. But those Whittier employees would be ensured jobs elsewhere, district officials have said.
The board also unanimously approved final design plans for the new elementary school planned at the former Hoover Middle School site at 36th Street and Country Club Boulevard.
The only part of the proposal that came under fire was a plan for a roughly $130,000 second exit from the site onto Hamilton Boulevard. Despite previous opposition from the district, the second exit was designed as a way to prevent traffic problems after area homeowners petitioned the city and district.
Debate surrounding the second exit centered on how much the exit could cost in the future with inflation and which of two separate traffic studies was more accurate. Just one board member, Walt Johnson, showed any reservation about adding the exit.
“We need this money elsewhere,” Johnson said. “The second exit is a nice thing to have, but not required.”
Now with the board’s approval, the district will seek bids on the $22.6 million Hoover project, which includes redesigning Clark Elementary into an early childhood center. Bids will likely be opened Jan. 14 and be brought back to the board for approval on Jan. 27.