DAVENPORT, Iowa — It's the last week Davenport students will walk the halls of Buchanan, Monroe and Washington elementary schools. The three schools are slated to close at the end of this school year, following a December 2022 vote from the Davenport School Board.
The closures are part of phase one of the district's long-range facilities plan. Monroe and Washington elementary schools were identified for closure in part because of the age of the buildings and the costs associated with improvements. Meanwhile, Buchanan has the lowest enrollment out of the elementary schools in its region, and the building wasn't recently updated like Truman's was.
Bray Architects, the firm leading the long-range facilities plan, is drawing up plans for demolition at Monroe and Washington. The preliminary budget for the project is $2,140,000 according to a memo attached to the school board's May 22 meeting agenda. Once the schools are demolished, the areas will be used as green space.
Based on feedback the district has gotten from its long-range facility planning, Superintendent TJ Schneckloth said the first investments are going to be at the middle school level. Smart and Sudlow are scheduled to have the first major investments, both in the $40 million range. Both intermediate schools are right next to Monroe and Washington elementaries.
"Both of those properties, the schools are very close to one another," Schneckloth said. "In order to build out the facilities that we need there, we need all available land there. The renovations at both of those sights are going to build right into the current outdoor space, so the plans right now are to renovate those spaces into outdoor spaces, community spaces."
When news of the closures came out, several staff members at Monroe said the first thing they thought about was the school's memorial garden for Breasia Terrell. The 10-year-old girl was a student at Monroe before she went missing in July 2020. Her remains were later found in Clinton County.
Monroe students and staff unveiled the memorial garden on June 2, 2022.
"Her classmates got to come out and just kind of paid tribute to her," said Monroe's Administrative Manager Kimberly Bohannon. "They created the designs that you see on the rocks around the garden about the things that reminded them of her, so whether that's the basketballs or you see a lot of purple, which was her favorite color."
She said in the last year the memorial garden has been a place of healing for students and a place for them to remember her in a positive way.
Terrell would have graduated from Monroe last year, alongside many of her classmates that now attend Smart Intermediate School.
"They still come back and they care for this space," Bohannon said. "I think they check on it and walk by it with fond memories."
"As they've walked through, they just have kind of either cleared off debris or pulled a weed here or there," said Tiffany Steverson, the SEBH Innovator for the Davenport district. "The way that the community is also just taking care and concern of the area has been incredibly impressive and special."
The two women, along with Monroe's counselor Molly Koberstein, hope the memorial can remain protected after the school closes.
"I hope that it can stay here because I feel like this is Breasia's community down here," Koberstein said. "A lot of the people that love her the most are down here, so I would, I'd really love for it to stay and be protected."
"It's just a place where we can continue to connect and come together, where loved ones and community members and classmates can come to this space and know that this space represents compassion and empathy and love and care," Steverson said. "Regardless of whether it remain in this exact area, or we're able to take it to a space where it's protected, my hope would be that it just continues to sustain that meaning for us."
Schneckloth acknowledged that there are pieces of history that are important to the community at each one of the schools, including Breasia's memorial at Monroe.
"We are working very closely with Bray Architects to ensure that the history of those properties are ingrained," he said. "The Breasia memorial is really important to that community, and so what does that look like to always ensure that there's a spot on that property to do that? The ability to keep that there to honor Breasia and other memorials on those properties is absolutely built into the plan as we move forward."
There is no immediate timeline right now for when the demolition of Monroe and Washington schools might take place. The school board will take action on the demolitions on Monday, June 26.
The man accused of murdering and kidnapping Breasia, Henry Dinkins, is scheduled to be in court for a status hearing on July 18 at the Scott County Courthouse, according to online court records. His trial is set to start on Aug. 8.