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Grant Elementary opens its doors

NL’s newest elementary school honors a living legend
Dr. Christine Grant, with a little help, cuts the ribbon for the new elementary school in North Liberty bearing her name during a ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 21. (photos by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– The Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) opened the doors to its 22nd elementary school on Wednesday, Aug. 21, with a ribbon cutting and ice cream social.
The new school, Christine Grant Elementary, is the fourth ICCSD elementary school in North Liberty (North Bend Elementary is part of the Clear Creek Amana School District), the sixth school building total, and the first to be built in North Liberty after Liberty High School opened in 2017.
The district has 28 schools in total with more likely as enrollment growth in and around North Liberty continues.
“I think you’re going to be really impressed when you get in there, this is a wonderful learning environment for our students,” said ICCSD Superintendent Steve Murley. “It is really unique though, because most of the time when we’re opening a new school, we’re honoring someone who has done something in the past. Today we are uniquely gifted with the opportunity to honor someone who is still with us, Dr. Christine Grant.”
The district honored another pioneer, Dr. James Van Allen, with Van Allen Elementary, also in North Liberty, which opened in 2005. Dr. Van Allen died in 2006.
Dr. Grant is a native of Scotland and was born in 1936. She lived in Canada prior to coming to Iowa City for a degree in physical education. Grant earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Iowa and became the University’s first women’s athletic director in 1973, a position she held until her retirement in 2000. The National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, the Women’s Basketball Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport all honored her for the work she has done and the example she set. Dr. Grant is considered a national leader and expert in the subject of gender equality in athletics and has testified before Congress as a consultant for the Civil Rights Title IX Task Force. In addition, she received the Gerald R. Ford Award for significant leadership throughout her career as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics and was named one of the 100-most influential sports educators in America by the Institute of International Sport.
ICCSD School Board President Janet Godwin said the new school has been “a long time coming. We were having board meetings this winter feeling wow, it’s a little touch-and-go.”
The harsh winter, including the infamous “Polar Vortex,” put a kink in the construction schedule but everyone pulled together to get the building built.
Godwin offered her thanks to all involved with the project saying, “This is what we needed, and you guys did it, and I’m so, so, so appreciative.”
To the students she said, “Make this building your own. What a joy to be the first class in a brand new, gorgeous building. Make it your own. Make your culture here. Make the Grizzlies’ (Grant Elementary’s mascot) spirit something that this community school district is going to be proud of.”
She charged the teachers and staff with building the culture of Grant Elementary, as well.
“I can’t wait to see what comes from all of your hard work.”
To Dr. Grant, a personal hero of hers, Godwin said, “You have opened the doorway for so many people including many of these students here today. You have paved the way, and thank you.”
North Liberty Mayor Terry Donahue echoed Godwin’s comments saying, “I can’t think of a more magnificent person than Dr. Grant. What she has done for gender equity, women’s equity in sports, it’s been phenomenal.”
To the teachers and staff, the mayor said, “Welcome to North Liberty, we’re glad you’re here.”
He called for respect and support for the teachers and their work.
“Help them, and they will help you back tenfold.”
To the families, Donahue said, “Grizzly moms, Grizzly dads, Grizzly students, welcome. I think you’ll like it here.”
Dr. Grant’s niece read a statement on behalf of the wheelchair-bound honoree, saying, “The greatest gift we can give to this world is to educate well the next generation.”
Principal for Grant Elementary Ken Turnis said he and his staff are “beyond proud, and honored, to be integral pieces of Christine Grant Elementary. Christine, our appreciation for all that you have done, and that you continue to do, everything that you have represented… we are going to do everything we can as a school to adhere to those values, those beliefs that you’ve stood for. We’ll be especially thoughtful as we establish our own traditions, our celebrations, the overall direction of our school. You’ve inspired all of us to be better. Thank you.”
FRK Architects of Des Moines designed the building with Bi-State Construction, of Burlington, serving as the general contractor. The $19 million project called for in the district’s 10-year facilities plan was funded through the $191.5 million bond issue voters approved in 2017.