MUSCATINE, Iowa — In 2001, mention of razing Muscatine’s oldest public school generated strong public opposition.

A dozen years, months of planning and several informational meetings later, public opinion has shifted, and on Monday night, the Muscatine School Board took the next step toward making the current building one for the history books, and writing the next chapter in the school’s history.

Board members voted unanimously to pursue a plan to replace the 86-year-old school with a new, two-story building.

During the past three months, area residents took a collectively calm approach as they attended public forums and learned more about options for Jefferson Elementary School.

“I really felt like we probably had about 90 plus percent of the folks who expressed something were very supportive of moving forward with an option,” said Superintendent Bill Decker. “And most of those folks focused on Option 3, (the option the board supported Monday night).”

 The decision to address the

circumstances at the aging building at 1000 Mulberry Ave. was even applauded by former Jefferson principal Kathleen Green during the citizen speaks portion of Monday’s school board meeting.

“I think the faculty at Jefferson worked very hard to reduce the achievement gap,” said Green, principal of Jefferson through 2007. “Now, what I see this community doing is narrowing the fiscal gap. I am very pleased you are going to take this step. It is overdue, but thank you.”

In 2001, the Muscatine School Board ended the uproar about the possibility of razing Jefferson with a non-majority vote and decided to leave the school in place for another decade.

When the new board revisited the situation in 2012, the school board hired FEH Associates in Des Moines to study Jefferson and create a plan to address options for the building.

Public forums began on Nov. 28, when approximately 40 people heard FEH architect Tyler Riley describe his firm’s findings and four options for addressing the continued need for a school in the downtown Muscatine area.

From the walls to the roof, Jefferson’s age shows in many ways, including windows that no longer open and close well, water damage to the walls.

Those options included adding on to the existing school or putting up a new building. Renovation of the school was a less favored option because of the $13,922,260 price tag, and the fact the school would not be able to be used for up to two years.  

Other options involved constructing a new building around the existing building or razing Jefferson and building a school at a different site.

Option 3 entails building a new school at the existing site for an estimated cost of $9,787,936 and eventually tearing down the existing school.

In other business the board:

  • Heard a report from the Muscatine High School Students Council about the upcoming annual Senior Survivor and other activities.
  • Unanimously approved the early retirements of 19 district employees.