Bettendorf School Board votes to close Thomas Jefferson Elementary

BETTENDORF, Iowa-- The Bettendorf Community School District unanimously voted in favor of a plan to close Thomas Jefferson Elementary School during its committee of the whole meeting Monday, Aug. 6.

Students enrolled at Thomas Jefferson will attend Mark Twain Elementary after it's renovated next year.

"This expansion of Mark Twain will allow the addition of the Jefferson students in to the new Mark Twain while continuing with the current number of sections and class size," Superintendent Mike Ramos said during Monday night's meeting.

Reports presented at the meeting indicated that the district would save $400,000 each year by closing Thomas Jefferson. By closing Thomas Jefferson, the district will have an additional $1.5 million for other repair projects.

However, some of the people attending the meeting felt the district was putting money over students.

"I don't see how you can vote to close a school that's in good shape, has full classrooms and has top-notch test scores," one man said during public comment.

Board members noted that it would cost $9.6 million to update and repair both Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson. They said, in the long run, it makes more sense to spend $12.9 million on the Mark Twain expansion.

Some parents said it's not about the money or the building.

"There are so many different types of individuals that attend Jefferson," said Heather Wade, a parent of a Jefferson student. "And we all have the same goal which is to be part of something bigger than ourselves... I just feel like our voice is not valuable enough."

Wade said she feels betrayed by the school board's decision since many of the members said they would keep Thomas Jefferson open while they campaigned.

"All of them at various times promised that they would stand with Jefferson, that they wouldn't close Jefferson," Wade said. "And as time has progressed, they have all fallen away."

Several board members, including Andrew Champion, said they didn't want to close Thomas Jefferson, but financially it was best for the district's future.

During Monday's meeting, the board approved the construction plan for Mark Twain, which will start later this year and end in October 2019. Thomas Jefferson students would transition to Mark Twain for the 2019-2020 school year.