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The president of the Iowa City School Board talks about Hills Elementary’s retirement



Hills, Iowa – According to the president of the Iowa City School Board, eliminating the Hills primary school might help prevent more district-wide budget cuts.

Over the following two years, the district hopes to eliminate $7 million. It attributes the cuts to the state’s adoption of a voucher program for private schools that went into force this academic year and the lack of increase in the student population.

Situated approximately 15 miles south of Iowa City in the community of Hills, is Hills Elementary School. It’s the smallest school in the district, with a majority of minority pupils enrolled, and it also has the highest per-pupil costs.

“My son is going to be sad because he made a lot of friends here,” said Elena Ramirez of Iowa City.

Ramirez added that by driving her five-year-old son the fifteen minutes from Iowa City to Hill, she has improved his English language skills.

“Now, he can speak more English and spell the alphabet,” she said.

Despite being the smallest elementary school in the district, Hills Elementary is nevertheless distinct. Among the 140 enrolled pupils, Hispanics make up 43%. That is three times the average for the district.

“That’s why we like the school, they help him,” said Elena.

Ruthina Malone, the president of the school board, is aware of the needs of families like the Ramirez family.

“It’s not a decision that any board member signs up to make, to close down a school,” said Malone.

Malone stated that every student has access to the district-wide program known as “Student Family Advocates,” which provides school supplies, mental health resources, transportation assistance, and other services. The pupils will receive the same level of care at any elementary school they attend, she said, should Hills Elementary close.

“If they decide that if Hills gets closed and they want to stay with ICCSD and go to the new home school, transportation will be provided to get them there,” she said.

Malone stated that she was still unsure of this school’s future. Millions of dollars in cuts affecting teacher incentives, purchases, an administrative post, and the cancellation of a professional learning day are already being discussed by fellow board members. According to her, keeping Hills open would have long-term effects because it might result in the district losing 43 teaching positions.

“We already see some large class sizes throughout our buildings, we are going to see even larger class sizes throughout our buildings if we have to let go,” said Malone.

Although Ramirez hoped her son would continue to grow, Malone stated there were still a lot of questions they were working through if Hills Elementary were to close. These included what would happen to the student-to-teacher ratio, which students would open enroll in other schools, and which school the students would attend.

“If I have to change his school, maybe he can make more friends,” said Ramirez.

On March 26th, the board will cast a vote.


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