Cedar Rapids Community School District to sell Arthur and Garfield Elementary buildings

The Cedar Rapids Community School District announced its plans for the sale and repurposing of the aging Arthur and Garfield Elementary School buildings Monday night


The Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) announced its plans for the sale and repurposing of the century-old Arthur and Garfield Elementary School buildings on Monday, June 10. 

The CRCSD Board of Education will hold a public hearing on June 24 for residents to share their thoughts on the proposed sales and repurposing of the historic buildings. After the hearing, the Board of Education will vote to approve or deny the sale agreements. 

Named after the 20th and 21st U.S. presidents respectively, both school buildings were built in 1914, and opened their doors in 1915. According to a press release from CRCSD, the structures are unique in both age and architecture: the Arthur building exhibits a “fortress” or “castle” design, while the Garfield school features Egyptian-inspired front columns.

“When we considered selling and repurposing these buildings, we focused on three key objectives: honoring their historical significance, providing value to the entire community, and building partnerships that could give back to the district,” said Chad Schumacher, CRCSD director of operations, in the press release. “I believe we have achieved all three of those goals with these plans.”

The 2023-24 school year marked the last use of these buildings for CRCSD. The district is combining the two schools into the newly constructed Trailside Elementary School, scheduled to open in August 2024. 

Arthur Elementary School Sale

The CRCSD Board of Education elected to sell Arthur Elementary School to the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy (EIAA), a local nonprofit dedicated to providing equitable arts experiences for all ages and abilities. 

According to the press release, the agreement reflects the district’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and community enrichment. The sale will be coupled with a cash offer and a 10-year partnership for EIAA to offer additional free arts programming in CRCSD schools, supplementing existing art, music, and physical education classes. 

The Eastern Iowa Arts Academy plans to repurpose Arthur Elementary to include studio rental spaces for local artists and several arts classroom spaces, fostering a vibrant arts community within the historic building.

“We are thrilled at the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy to repurpose the historical Arthur Elementary School. Our current facilities no longer meet our students’ needs due to the recent influx of new participants,” said Heather Wagner, EIAA executive director, in the release. “This move will allow us to accommodate more art and music students, reach more underserved children with financial aid and transportation, and provide our families with more access to food and clothing. The new space will also be transformed to provide better accessibility to our students with disabilities. We look forward to creating a new, inclusive, fun, and welcoming space for our entire community.”

Garfield Elementary School Sale

Local developer Steve Emerson agreed with CRCSD to purchase Garfield Elementary School, and plans to transform the building into several apartments and a community space, according to the press release. 

As part of the agreement, CRCSD high school trade classes will be able to participate in some of the renovation work of the building. Given the high demand for trade classes, this project offers students valuable hands-on learning opportunities, as stated in the release. Additionally, two apartments within the renovated building will be allocated for CRCSD use, and may be leased to CRCSD employees, students, or other individuals affiliated with the district.

“I would like to thank our community partners for creating innovative solutions for our students, staff, and community,” stated Superintendent Tawana Grover, in an email from CRCSD. “The sale of Arthur will elevate the arts education for so many of our talented students. The sale of Garfield will expand experiences and opportunities for college and career-connected learning to help empower our students to be contributing members of the workforce.”

The fate of the Arthur and Garfield schools marks a milestone in the ongoing debate about the future of Cedar Rapids school facilities, including Harrison Elementary, and the construction of new schools to replace other aging facilities.