Iowa City parents speak their minds on proposed school diversity - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City parents speak their minds on proposed school diversity policy

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

In a standing room only forum parents spoke out on a hot button issue in the Iowa City School District.

"To me, collectively, you lack a clear sense of direction and purpose," said Chris Arpey.

"We owe it to our kids to work together to make this happen," said Jason Lewis.

The issue is diversifying Iowa City schools. The school board wants each of the district's schools to have a similar number of students on Free and Reduced Lunch plans (FRL),

"Children achieve better when there is a balance of socio-economic status in the schools," said Sally Hoelscher, school board member.  "We have a great imbalance in Iowa City."

For example, 79% of students at Mark Twain Elementary are on FRL.  That's compared to just 6% of students at Lincoln Elementary School.

Some aren't happy with defining "diversity" as lunch plan.

"FRL is not diversity, FRL is bigotry," said Amy Johnson, Parent.  "We are looking at students based solely on their economic status and that's not their fault."

This is looking close, looking like classism in my opinion, but also can have a hint of being close to being racism as well because of the people that are truly being effected," said Andre Echols, Iowa City West High School Teacher.

Others welcome the proposed changes.

"I have never seen this kind of community outrage for people talking about having the opportunity to go to a new school," said Sara Barron, parent.  "I really think it's a fear of racial and cultural diversity in the schools."

The school board has yet to announce a plan on how a diversity policy would be implemented. They say that's up to the district administration.

"It will be a part of the plan that the administrative team comes up with to deal with both compliance with this new policy and the limitations that are associated with it, and also dealing with our continued increase in enrollments across the district," said Stephen Murley, Superintendent of Iowa City Schools.

It would mean redistricting the schools but maps have not been drawn up.

Iowa City school board members will discuss the diversity policy at their next meeting Tuesday. However, they are not scheduled to vote on it that night.

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