Feb 09

Enrollment data shows more of the same

The 2017-18 public school certified enrollment tables are on the Iowa Department of Education’s website, but currently only accessible via magic. Fortunately, in this case, I have a magician’s touch. There are no big surprises, but a few small ones, likely brought on by the small sizes involved.

  • Overall, the state ticked 0.03% upward in enrollment, and at 486,264.3 is the highest since 2002-03. But if you throw out the top three gainers — Waukee, Ankeny, and Iowa City — the rest of the state combined for a 0.22% drop.
  • Of 333 independent districts, 24 declined by more than 5 percent, 162 showed a decrease between 1 and 5 percent, 135 grew between 1 and 5 percent, and 15 grew by more than 5 percent.
  • Of the districts with enrollment above 1000, the biggest percentage drops were Red Oak and Union. Numerically, Davenport was the biggest loser, down 256.5. Davenport has lost 1000 students in a decade.
  • Van Meter is the only district with an enrollment under 1000 that increased its number by more than 40 (70.7).
  • Waukee has grown so much that the flood of students isn’t enough to jump out percentage-wise; it “only” grew 5.4%. Numbers-wise, it’s still crushing everyone in sight. Enrollment grew by 572.3, toppling Dubuque as the state’s ninth-largest district with Waterloo next up. This year’s “absorbed this entire district” comparison has multiple options: Logan-Magnolia, East Buchanan, Clayton Ridge, or Cardinal.
  • Gilmore City-Bradgate and Twin Rivers, two tiny districts that shared a high school until 2011, are outliers percentage-wise for most growth and most decline, respectively. The net changes were +28 and -19, but that will cause double-digit swings when their combined enrollment is under 300.
  • Next door to those, West Bend-Mallard (where Twin Rivers is sending grades 7-12, despite only having the flimsiest of shared boundaries) is the next percentage decline outlier. Its 11% decline pushes certified enrollment below 300, a potential trigger for closure of Mallard Elementary.
  • Janesville has benefited enough from being between Waterloo and Waverly that it has the problem of too little class space. This week, on the third try, it finally got a bond issue for a new gym and more classroom space.
  • For the first time in seven years, North Tama didn’t hit an all-time low, but the increase was marginal.

In sum, the suburban districts keep winning and the rural districts keep losing. For more exploration see these two blog posts looking at long-term trends.

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Feb 08

Vengeance, justice, hockey

The Winter Olympics, with some actual events but a much-too-large complement of non-sports on both the rink and the slope, start today. There’s a good chance I won’t be able to see much if any of it, but there was one thing from Sochi I did witness live.

That’s a puck sailing toward an empty net and hitting the upright as the US women’s hockey team blew a 2-0 lead to Canada in the last 3½ minutes of regulation and lost in overtime (i.e. the most Iowa State way possible).

Knowing that, and knowing what the team has gone through in the years since, and with the NHL boycotting the Olympics* on the men’s side, there’s no reason not to stand up and say…


*But in Soviet Russia, Olympics boycott you!

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Feb 07

Animated annual report for Council Bluffs interstate project

The Iowa DOT has put out its review of the 2017 construction season for the Council Bluffs interstate project. A lot has been done, but there is so much more to go.

The biggest development was the opening of the new connection from westbound 80 to westbound 29/80 on the east side of Council Bluffs. That made the exit to southbound 29 a right exit and also relocated the South Expressway (former IA 192) exit to a point inside the interchange. Check out the “virtual ribbon cutting” for this interchange component.

There’s one thing that report doesn’t cover that I found elsewhere: A “constructability review” regarding the I-29/I-480 interchange, something not expected to start for nearly two more years. The meeting in June brought up the possibility of shutting down I-29 entirely to build this system. What’s not clear to me in the discussion is if it’s about shutting down I-29 between I-480 and I-80, or the whole thing farther north as well. Theoretically, all I-29 traffic could be dumped on/off of North 16th Street (way to take that off the state’s hands, CB), but an alternative using only state roads involves surface-street US 75 through North Omaha.

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Feb 06

The story of Albert the Bull

The world’s largest anatomically correct Hereford was featured in a Super Bowl ad and got a mini-documentary. Story, Sioux City Journal; video (below), Cenex (the ad’s sponsor).

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Feb 05

Hampton-Dumont, CAL finalize sharing

Last month, CAL officially agreed to send grades 7-12 to Hampton-Dumont, the Hampton Chronicle reported in multiple articles. (One of the articles was by Greg Forbes, who was laid off from the Sioux City Journal a while back and was named the editor [!] of the Chronicle nine weeks ago.)

An editorial last week disclosed more terms: The combined district will be HD-CAL, but presentation (uniforms etc.) will be phased in to save money. The mascot will remain H-D’s. CAL is moving forward with building improvements with the intention of staying open for a long time.

CAL is one-fifth the size of HD, so the name agreement at least is a boon for CAL. A new name would have been tricky because “Central Franklin” could be interpreted as a slight to Dumont (and Aredale, which is also on the Butler County side of the district but unmentioned). The combined high school in Hampton will take in students along IA 3 from the south end of former IA 107 to the south end of former IA 326, about 30 miles.

Meanwhile, tomorrow, Waukee is likely to give the go-ahead for a second high school and Ankeny is chasing its 11th elementary.

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Feb 04

Yet for some reason I STILL haven’t gotten the call

‘Jeopardy!’ Contestants Fumble Entire Football Category, To Coach Trebek’s Dismay (NPR)

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Feb 02

Old Cherokee, Lansing schools on ‘Endangered’ list

April 17, 2015: The Stone Schoolhouse in Lansing was in use from 1863 to 1973.

Preservation Iowa’s list of “Most Endangered Properties” includes two old school buildings.

First, as found in the tipoff for this blog post (Sioux City Journal), Wilson High School in Cherokee. The “Simplified Classical Revival Style”* building one block from the central intersection of the city has been abandoned for a decade. The photo with the Journal story shows a light pole with shields for three highways on it — US 59, IA 5, and IA 3, before the middle was truncated and the latter rerouted around.

Second, on the other side of the state, the Stone Schoolhouse in Lansing. It is on the same block as today’s Kee High, between that building and the football field. The roof is intact but the building “is basically abandoned with many openings to the elements and wildlife,” according to Preservation Iowa. As you can see in the photo at top, all the windows are boarded up.

*If that’s the term for the classic symmetrical multi-story pre-Depression brick building, I need to use it more.

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Feb 01

Mike Pargeon, 1966-2018

I mentioned I was at the Traer post office last Friday. That’s because I had jumped over to town to get an oil change on the car. It’s a little extra effort, but I support a local business that way.

Mike Pargeon, AWE’s owner, was there, and we exchanged pleasantries. He had been a big help to me when a different place wanted to charge more (MUCH more) for work on my car. He and his crew knew what I needed and were never less than totally helpful. He was honored in 2013 with an Outstanding Service Award from the town of Traer.

Mike never came home from work Friday night. He died suddenly at the shop. He was so important to the town that the funeral will be Saturday at the school, with visitation the night before at the Memorial Building.

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Jan 31

New galleries of old photos

I worry the “Road Trips” page is a neglected section of this website, in no small portion because I haven’t touched it since relocating everything to this address. (In fact, pages still had links to Angelfire and mac.com pages, and no one ever alerted me to a bad link.) So I’m going to do something about that.

The sensible thing to do to catch up to the present is to go in order, calling back the past, with galleries reaching back nearly a decade (ACK). But if you haven’t seen the pictures, they’re new to you!

The first new one is an old one I never put on the list: the family’s 2005 vacation to the Carolinas. It’s done in my old photo gallery style, the one that requires me making my own thumbnails and hand-coding the whole thing. The format does come in handy when I want more than a blurb underneath. Aside from changing planes in Charlotte last year, that trip was my first and only to that part of the country.

The second is a catch-all of assorted trips in the second half of 2007. Most of the photos are related to a two-day trip to Green Bay and a two-day trip to northwest Iowa. These galleries were created with iPhoto. I noticed that the older galleries came from an older version of iPhoto, and the newer ones clean up the folder/link styles a bit. Newer galleries will link to 800×600 images instead of 640×480. (Please “open in new tab” if you want to keep the index.)

I hope to make more of these, because they’re a place I can share photos that are not related to highways or endpoints. When I put more up I will make blog posts alerting you to them.

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Jan 30

‘Bluegrass Queen’ at Iowa’s doorstep

Who said Missouri wasn’t Southern?

According to KTVO and Bluegrass Today, a Missouri state legislator has proposed giving the title “Bluegrass Queen Rhonda Vincent Highway” to a portion of US 63 running north from Greentop MO. Greentop, the honoree’s hometown, is at the very bottom of the Iowa state map as US 63 continues south toward Kirksville.

If she’s the queen of her genre, wouldn’t it make sense to run it an additional three miles to Queen City?

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