Advocates protest the demolition of Harrison Elementary during a demonstration organized by Save CR Heritage in October 2023. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Note: Save CR Heritage is hosting a walking tour of the Harrison neighborhood, led by Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, from 6-7:30 p.m. Friday, June 14, and 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 15, 2024. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday, at Harrison Elementary, 1310 11th St. NW. Find more information on the nonprofit group’s Facebook page.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cedar Rapids School Board will hear alternative proposals for Harrison Elementary after a community survey showed renovating the historic school to be the top option among respondents.

Just 21 percent of those returning the survey chose replacing the architecturally significant school, at 1310 11th St. NW, compared to 35 percent who chose renovation/expansion.

That prompted the School Board to vote unanimously at its May 13, 2024, meeting to ask that alternative proposals be prepared for the consolidation of Harrison Elementary and Madison Elementary, 1341 Woodside Dr. NW.

Under an $850,000 contract, the School District enlisted Shive-Hattery Architecture & Engineering, based in Cedar Rapids, to help the district move forward after its $220 million bond referendum was overwhelmingly defeated in November.

A rendering shows the proposed school that would replace Harrison Elementary.

Rob DeMeuse, project manager at Wisconsin-based School Perceptions, which worked with Shive-Hattery on the April survey, presented results at Monday’s meeting.

Of 59,093 direct-mail surveys to active voters in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, 9,043 were completed, with an average of 1,500 comments per question, some of which were displayed at the School Board meeting.

Survey respondents who voted against the bond referendum cited the expense and tax impact as the top reason, at 71 percent, followed closely by a lack of trust in the district’s planning process, at 64 percent, and closing Harrison — which was not even on the bond referendum — at 42 percent.

Harrison was scheduled to be demolished at the end of this school year, but the School District announced in March that the demolition was put on hold.

Read more: School district pauses demolition of Harrison

Harrison Elementary School is shown in September 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Respondents were allowed to make more than one choice on the question of why they voted “no” and chose installing turf fields at the high schools next at 39 percent, followed by building a new northside middle school at 37 percent and other options at 35 percent or less.

One year ago, the School Board abruptly overturned a task force recommendation to renovate and expand Harrison Elementary, and instead voted to demolish the school.

Demolishing Harrison was never offered as an option to the task force, as the building, which opened in 1930, is considered the most architecturally significant of Cedar Rapids elementary schools and was deemed structurally sound.

Some of the many written survey comments are displayed at the Cedar Rapids School Board meeting on May 13, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

During the seven months the task force met to analyze data on the choices, Legat Architects of Iowa City was hired to create a design showing renovation and expansion of Harrison, but no one on the School Board mentioned that previous proposal.

At Monday’s meeting, both School Board president Cindy Garlock and past president David Tominsky stood by their vote last year to demolish the school, saying the community “wanted a new school” then. They did not cite who in the community wanted Harrison demolished.

Save CR Heritage, which advocates to raise awareness of the importance of historic buildings, collected thousands of petition signatures opposing demolition last year and held a demonstration in support of Harrison in October; residents emailed the school board and addressed the board at a special meeting called by the petitions — skipped by half of the board members who voted in favor of demolition — and an overwhelming majority of neighbors signed petitions against rezoning that would have allowed the demolition.

Related: Costs for Harrison replacement soar

Journalist Cindy Hadish is a board member of Save CR Heritage and served on the School District’s Harrison/Madison task force.

Cedar Rapids School Board members listen to the survey results during their May 13, 2024 meeting. (photo/Cindy Hadish)