Committee takes on Central Campus issue
By DANA BOONE
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
April 7, 2005
Deciding what to do with the aging Des Moines Central Campus building will dominate the work of a committee of staff, students, parents and business leaders in the coming months.
The committee, which has about 42 members, will make recommendations later this year about the school's needs, including whether the building should be renovated or the program moved elsewhere. Members are engaged in a comprehensive study of the school's programs, current site and future needs.
"Central Campus with its premier programs needs a premier facility," said committee co-chairwoman Erin Stoen , coordinator of school's career and technical institute.
Central Campus serves 2,200 students from 29 school districts and houses the academy for advanced classes, along with career and technical programs.
Stoen stressed the need for broad community involvement in the process. About 25 people attended Wednesday's meeting at Central Campus, originally an automobile assembly plant built in 1916.
Duane Van Hemert , Des Moines' executive director of facility management, told the committee that rumors circulating that the building, at 1800 Grand Ave., had been sold were false.
He said he initiated contact with developers to gauge the suitability of the site for development and the value of the building. He declined to say which developers were taken on tours. He said that they did not discuss sale prices, but that "there is interest in this building."
Parents and teachers on the committee asked questions about the process. Parent Sharon Walsh asked officials how proceeds from the sale of the school would be used. Van Hemert said the board would guide the decisions, but the money could be used "no matter what we decide."
Central Campus teacher Elaine Wolf asked about the fate of Central Academy. About 100 academy students and teachers were moved this year to the John and Mary Pappajohn Higher Education Center at 12th Street and Grand Avenue.
Stoen said more academy students will move to the center next fall, but nothing has been determined about the permanent location of the academy.
A teacher asked whether the district already owns centrally located land that is suitable for Central Campus. Van Hemert responded that the district does not own suitable land.
Van Hemert urged committee members to attend meetings on possible changes to the district's sales tax building plans. Projections from the 1-cent sales tax Polk County voters approved in 1999 have plummeted. He said less than $10.7 million is available to renovate or rebuild Central Campus, but he did not have the current figure.
The next committee meeting is at 2:45 p.m. May 4 at the Central Campus library.