Glenwood School District Wants To Be Proactive After GRC Announcement
When the state of Iowa announced in April it was shuttering the Glenwood Resource Center in 2024, the future of the facility, its 150 clients and more than 600 employees weren’t the only lingering questions.
The closing of the facility – and the state’s intended sale of the property – could have deep impacts on the Glenwood Community School District in both its enrollment and it’s future building infrastructure. The 146-year-old facility houses the district’s central office, Head Start program and its Kids Place pre-k/daycare in the same building at 103 Central.
On April 7, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the residential center the cares for Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities will close in 2024. The GRC has been plagued with issues for several years, including multiple investigations by the Department of Justice and the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services that revealed accusations of neglect, abuse and illegal experimentation on clients.
Reynolds stated in her announcement that the decision to close GRC was “difficult” but that her office and state will work with families to find new placement residents in other facilities and new job opportunities for staff ahead of the facility’s closure. Current staff members will also be offered incentives to remain on the job and assist with the transition.
The transition surprised many in the community who weren’t aware closure was being considered by the governor of DHHS.
“We were a little bit shocked when we heard the news,” said Dr. Devin Embray, Superintendent of the Glenwood Community School. “We were led to believe it (the GRC) was going to be re-structured into a different type of service or different type of care, but it wasn’t going to close. But then it comes out that it’s going to close. We were taken back and shocked initially.”
Embray does not know the exact numbers, but he estimated the district has 100 to 150 students whose parents work at the GRC. With fall enrollment for the district underway, the district is asking parents to include their employer on registration documents to better gage those numbers and their potential impact.
Over the next two years, the care of those clients who will transition out is the priority, Embray said, followed closely by proactive ways to keep families of GRC employees in the community with re-training and new employment opportunities.
“The majority of those employed up there are in direct care and a many of them may not have a certification beyond a high school diploma,” Embray said adding the “blue collar” and medical personnel will likely have easier “access points” to new employment.
“Whereas there’s this larger group of direct care folks who may have 20 years in and have a high school diploma and are asking, ‘What are we going to do?’’ Embray said.
That’s why Embray has already reached out to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, Iowa Workforce Development, and Iowa Western Community College about the re-training piece.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 funding for unemployment benefits for re-training don’t kick in until 180 days out from employment end, meaning six months before the GRC closes its doors for employees who stick around. Embray said that narrow window isn’t doing the state or GRC employees any favors.
“We should have better planning in place for that,” he said. “But the state wants out of everything up here.”
The state plans to sell off all the GRC buildings and the land by July 1, 2024. The state has already approached GCSD about purchasing their building and maintaining a presence on the campus.
“The problem is it’s great if they sell it to us for a dollar but if it needs $1 million to update it and mitigate it and make it functional, it’s not so much of a gift.”
Prior to the construction of the new high school, the Glenwood Middle School was housed on the campus for 18 years, but the building aged out and was ill suited for students in both its size and layout.
“Hallways were so tight you could only release what class at a time because when lockers were open, it was hard to pass,” Embray said.
Glen Haven Village and On with Life would like to remain on the campus, according to Embray. Glen Haven is a senior living campus while On with Life provides long-term skilled care for youth and adults with traumatic brain injuries. As for the school district’s future on the campus, that’s unclear.
“We’re still trying to figure out how we fit in up there and what our long-range plans for facilities are,” Embray said.
GCSD’s current strategic plan did not include the GRC campus. Embray said the district has plans to seek a bond for the construction of a new elementary building and a remodel of the badly outdated Northeast Elementary in 2026. That plan would move the central office and Kids Place out of the current facilities and into the vacated West Elementary.
“It would have put the district into the greatest shape possible for the next 75 years,” Embray said. “Now with the state closing, we have more buildings than we need. Do we build the new 3-5 building or not? Obviously, we will bond for the work at Northeast. But there’s so much we don’t know.
“There’s going to be some touch and go moments over the next several years trying to figure out how these pieces fit together.”