University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen told faculty and staff at the Malcom Price Lab school Wednesday that he’ll recommend the school be closed on July 1st. Allen said closing the school had been on the table for several years.

“The urgency of it, the timing of it is driven mainly by the financial situation we are in. That started with the last three years of budget cuts from about 24-million dollars. This year we have a five million dollar deficit, we’re still working through pieces of that,” Allen said.

“And so the provost of the university had a severe challenge, and one of the reasons we’re doing this is to say how can we do this a different way to save us some money.” The Price Lab school has been where many of U.N.I.’s education majors have been able to “student-teach” prior to graduation, and Allen says it’s time to move toward a different approach to a student teaching program.

“The issue is, is there a better way than a lab school to provide this type of opportunity…to prepare teachers, but also for the research and development piece,” Allen said. Allen says they’ll help with the transition for students to attend other schools in the district.

“Fortunately we have, I think, a very good Cedar Falls school system, but it’s always traumatic…it takes some time for readjustment, and so we want to do that in a very, very careful way to be sure that we treat those students very well,” Allen said.

Lab school parent, Dawn Ask-Martin, said it would be a shame to close the school. She pulled her son out of the Cedar Falls schools in third grade and open enrolled him at Price Lab once he became eligible in seventh grade.

“He’s been flourishing since then, and I guess it’s heartbreaking to see this happen, and I’m definitely not going down without a fight,” Ask-Martin said.

The closing of the school would be dependent on approval of the Board of Regents. Regents president Craig Lang commented on the possibility of closing the school last week after hearing preliminary cost-cutting proposals from Allen. Lang said a consultant’s report has raised questions about the lab school’s future.

Lang said the report indicated it would take $30-million to rebuild the school because of some antiquated facilities, and “that’s not affordable at this time.”  The school has around 360 students.

U.N.I. officials say they will reveal more of the planned budget cuts this afternoon.

By Scott Fenzloff, KCNZ, Cedar Falls