Tears, Anger Greet Announcement of Price Lab Closure Plans as Parents Meet With UNI President Ben Allen

UNI President Ben Allen confirmed Malcolm Price Laboratory School will close in June, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

President Ben Allen confirmed plans Wednesday to close in June.

The closure is pending approval by the Iowa Board of Regents.

Several hundred students, parents, staff and community members filled the Price Lab auditorium Wednesday during a meeting with Allen. The meeting came just minutes after a similar meeting with Price Lab faculty, .

Some of the parents and students were crying. At times they shouted their disapproval.

"This is so much more than a school. This is a community," one crowd member said, to applause.

As Allen took questions and comments from the crowd, parents expressed anger, at times shouting their disapproval. At other moments there was outright derision, as the crowd laughed at some of Allen's comments about his desire for transparency and openness.

"You are quite right. I take the criticsm. This has not been open, this has not been transparent," Allen said.

Common themes from the meeting were frustration with the short notice - last Thursday, - worries about how students would transition to public school and what they saw as a lack of willingness to engage in a conversation with the Price Lab community before the decision was made.

Some said they would have been willing to raise money to fix the aging school building, which is estimated to need either $30 million in renovations or replacement.

"I'm disgusted, disapointed and devastated," said parent Nicol Geving, who has a 10th grader at the school. "Parent's weren't informed until the woke up and heard it on the news. They tell us why, but it doesn't make sense. We could raise money. Look at all these devastated students."

Allen told reporters he understood the news was upsetting.

"It's always traumatic," he said. "It takes some time for readjustment. We want to do that in a very careful way to be sure that we treat those students very well."

How do you feel about the closure of Price Lab? Tell us in the comments.

Allen said he wasn't sure what the timeline would be for action from the Board of Regents. In an email, Regent communication officer Sheila Doyle Koppin said the Board of Regents had no comment Wednesday night.

The move comes as UNI looks for ways to save money facing what Allen said was a $5 million deficit this year. In the last three years, about $24 million in budget cuts have been made.

Price Lab has a budget of $5.5 million, of which $3.2 million comes from UNI.

"We're not going to job losses at all here because we haven't got that far," Allen said. "If we close down the school we have the potential to save a couple of million dollars (annually) depending on how we handle the transition. It might be less than that."

He said closing Price Lab, which serves as a research and development and training school for UNI's teacher training program, would not mean cutting those programs. Instead, the university will try to explore alternative methods

"We are the premiere pre-K to 12 program," he said. "It's not like we're quitting. We're doing things differently. One of the reasons we are doing this is to see how can we do this in a different way to save us some money. But also I think it reflects the issue of is there a better way than a lab school to provide this type of opportunity to teachers."

He said the university would work with parents and area superintendents to move students into other schools. Price Lab has 366 students enrolled this year.

"Fortunately, we have I think a very good Cedar Falls school system," he said.

Many of the parents of Price Lab students, however, said they sent their children to the school because they were looking for a different sort of school system.

Price Lab senior Judy Bleik, 17, said last year she had an eating disorder, and she felt supported at Price Lab in a way she never had at public schools. She attended Holmes Junior High School before coming to Price Lab for high school.

"This school supported me no matter what. I had been to public schools and that didn't happen. At public schools they told me the bullying I was experiencing wasn't happening. Here they helped me. They did everything they could to make me feel like a person," she said. "I'm a little shocked. This school means the world to me."


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