The Mt. Pleasant Community School Board hosted a public forum on Monday, August 28th to discuss the future of the Iowa Wesleyan property purchase for the benefit of the board. Rachel Lindeen of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce moderated, and many citizens voiced their concerns, support, and some even presented their own ideas to the board. Residents, reporters, camera crews, and security filled the room in what turned out to be a long, but civil, time of questions, answers, and statements.
The practice fields and central campus were both purchased on August 14th for a combined total of 1.25 million dollars. This central campus includes the Howe Student Activity Center and Ruble Arena, Student Union, Old Main, Pioneer Hall, P.E.O Memorial Building, and the University Chapel. At the onset of the meeting, superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Community School District John Henriksen, provided a history and background of this agreement. The board met with the USDA, the Regional Task Force, MP City and Business Leadership, and the Chamber released surveys where 50% of respondents preferred some sort of educational institute on the former Iowa Wesleyan campus. “A number specifically mentioned MPCSD.”
The school board laid out a variety of needs that could help improve the current, and future, of the school district. They believe that a practice field is needed, as well as an area for the fine arts to practice and perform, potentially in an auditorium if possible. One of the main issues facing the school district is a lack of gym space. The district also currently does not have a district office that they can call home, as they rent the space they are inhabiting. After meeting with different groups, the board decided that the IW properties mentioned above would be a great addition to the school district and they tick all the boxes.
A facility estimate conducted in October of 2021 revealed that the current elementary school buildings are growing old. The HVAC, plumbing, roofing, lighting, and power systems have an estimated life span of 5-10 years, and the AC units installed in the elementary schools are entering year 6.
The public was then allowed to ask questions, with certain conditions such as a maximum of two questions per person, and the next hour was full of lively conversation.
One of the points of discussion that seemed to be brought up on numerous occasions was the future of the current crop of elementary school buildings. Specifically, what is the plan if the central elementary school is approved. The board answered that the “buildings would be sold, demolished, repurposed, or gifted.” Of course, there are other options as well, but these were the possibilities brought up. Another citizen, who was an educator in the school district for many years, believes that these buildings should be repurposed into a variety of ideas, namely a daycare or preschool. He also entertained the idea of a tech school in the community, that would allow certain students to pursue a different future than a traditional college. Wisdom Quest could also find a new home if these buildings were to be repurposed.
The lingering idea that Salem would be shut down was put to an end at the meeting, with a school board member suggesting that they have not had that discussion at this point in time. This same member reiterated that the central campus is just a vision at this moment, and the public cannot assume that Salem will be closed if this passes. A concerned community member mentioned that Salem is currently ranked very high in the state for education, and warned of the dangers that bringing all students into one building would bring. Another citizen asked about the student to teacher ratio and if that would increase. This ratio would stay around 13 students to every one teacher according to the school board.
For those concerned of the Howe Student Activity Center boasting of two floors, the board mentioned that an elevator would be installed as per law. It is also important to note that the district was not given the option to buy single entities, which helped relieve some of the fear from those who believe certain buildings included in this deal will be a bigger problem than solution.
The Mt. Pleasant Community School Board ended the public forum by reminding those in attendance that these board meetings are open for anyone to attend. Their contact information is on the district website, and they also brought up the upcoming school board election on Tuesday, November 7th where all seats will be up for election due to the redistricting, and encouraged all to use their voice and vote.
KILJ previous coverage on this issue:
August 14th, 2023https://kilj.com/update-on-iowa-wesleyan-university-properties/