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Parents express concern, seek answers on Mark Twain transition plan

BETTENDORF, Iowa-- Roughly 70 parents turned out to an informational meeting Wednesday, February 20, looking for details and answers to their questions about the Bettendorf School District's plan to transition to the new Mark Twain Elementary School.

Construction started back in October. But before construction can wrap-up, old portions of Mark Twain have to be torn down. And students have to go somewhere else for classes next fall.

The Bettendorf school board approved a plan, moving second through fifth graders from Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson to Ross College. The district is leasing half of the space, which has been sectioned off from the rest of the college. Preschoolers through second graders will go to Thomas Jefferson Elementary.

Parents like Rebecca Smith said they had some questions Wednesday night.

"How are they going to break up the day?" she asked. "Are they still going to have recess? Will they be able to go outside?"

A playground area is planned outside the Ross College location, fenced and walled in with some play equipment.

Administrators telling parents they'll try to get kids outside as much as possible, weather permitting.

Other parents say they're concerned about their kids going to school next door to adults.

"We know nothing about the people that we're going to be sharing this building with or what kind of the rigors they put their students through before they accept them and let them into their property," Anne Dunbar says.

Dunbar says she's worried about kids' safety getting to and from school. The district has a plan in place to give Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson students free bussing for next semester to their new locations.

Some parents expressed concerns about their kids walking to school.

Amber Vaughn says she wishes parents had been more involved in creating the transition plan.

"There's been no definitive answers on the questions we had today that were simple questions that popped into my head that they didn't even think about," she says.

Superintendent Mike Raso says that wasn't possible during negotiations.

"We were working on a lease with the site, too," he explains. "And until we got that lease done with (Ross College), it's one of those things you don't want out in the public because you're trying to negotiate costs."

He also says the school board members were elected and administrators were hired to make these sort of plans and decisions.

The transition plan will be in effect this fall. Demolition will start in August 2019 with the construction of the new building wrapping up by the end of November 2019. Students and teachers would then move into the new building after the new year.

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