MOLINE — The Moline-Coal Valley School District board on Monday defeated a proposal to repurpose an updated Hamilton Elementary School and keep the Ericsson and Garfield elementary schools open.
The district wants to expand Hamilton at 700 32nd Ave. and close Ericsson and Garfield in an effort to improve student performance and save money.
But board member Ben McAdams, a former Moline school superintendent, proposed using an expanded Hamilton as a math and science academy and keeping the other two schools open, forcing the district to cut costs in other ways.
Mr. McAdams said the decision to close Ericsson and Garfield was made without input from district residents.
“I believe the board can change previous decisions and has in the past,” he said.
The board voted 5-2 to reject his plan, with Mr. McAdams joined by Robert Tallitsch in support of it. Mr. Tallitsch also proposed delaying the vote until a cost analysis could be done on Mr. McAdams’ plan; that motion died for lack of a second.
Mr. McAdams said closing Ericsson would remove a key hub of the Floreciente neighborhood. He asked if there was another way to save money without closing the two schools.
Board president Connie McElyea said the district was eight months into bringing about the proposal and Mr. McAdams’ plan would force it to discard all that work. The board was asked to approve his plan without knowing its impact, she said.
She said there have been numerous opportunities for public input, starting in 2006. She noted a number of committees and forums, including forums at Hamilton, Ericsson and Garfield schools.
After the defeat of his proposal, Mr. McAdams proposed putting his plan on the November ballot as an advisory referendum. That motion also failed 5-2 with all but Mr. McAdams and Mr. Tallitsch opposed.
Mr. McAdams has said that a group of residents is prepared to pass a petition to place it on the ballot. On Monday, he said that plan now will go into effect, adding he did not know how many signatures would be needed.
If the proposal does appear on the ballot, however, it would be advisory only, meaning the school board would not be bound by it, Mr. McAdams said. It would provide a record of voters’ opinions, he said.
About 60 people attended Monday’s meeting, many forced to stand and many apparently drawn for the debate over Hamilton, Ericsson and Garfield. Three spoke during the public comment period — one for retaining Ericsson and two backing the district’s plan.
Marina Varela, an Ericsson supporter, said the school’s advocates have tried to voice their concerns, but the district has countered with “change is good.” Ericsson’s supporters know that, she said, but it made a difference how that change was presented and the cost of that change.
The district does not have to improve the education of other students at the expense of those at Ericsson, she said.
Shelly Rumler said many teachers, parents and community members who served on committees for the Hamilton plan devoted a lot of effort. The district plan is needed to balance class size, prepare students to learn in the 21st century and raise achievement, she said.
“We think it’s best for our community and the students,” she said.
Some people held handwritten signs that read “Have Moline taxpayers given informed consent?” and “Do You Care About Neighborhood Schools? Please Join Us.”
Several Moline police officers also were at Monday’s meeting. In recent months, there has been no police presence at Moline School Board meetings.
In response to a question from Mr. McAdams, Ms. McElyea said she asked for the officers in anticipation of the large crowd.
After the meeting, Ms. McElyea said the board did not want a repeat of a Jan. 30 meeting on a survey about future uses for Ericsson. That meeting grew contentious at times, and Ms. McElyea adjourned the meeting abruptly when an audience member persisted in questioning the meeting’s format.