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A New Era for DCSD

Decorah has a long history of pride in our schools. In the past 20 years the district has built the Middle School and renovated both the High School and Carrie Lee Elementary School.


It is now time to turn our attention to the youngest students in our district.


The district began evaluating the many issues at West Side Early Childhood Center and John Cline Elementary School 16 years ago. This process has included building and infrastructure assessments by architects and engineers, along with a thorough examination of the pressing needs that both facilities face, the ways each can be addressed, and the associated costs.


In the fall of 2023, the district purchased land with intentions of it becoming the location of a new elementary school. A facility committee that consists of community leaders has met six times throughout this spring and examined the district's needs at the elementary level.


The district's elementary facility committee will make a final recommendation to the DCSD School Board on July 8, 2024.

Building on Our History​

West Side was constructed in 1939 and John Cline opened its doors in 1964. These schools have educated generations of students and have been a source of pride for the community. However, the Decorah Community School District faces a long list of needs and expenses today due to the age of these schools.


In 2008, an Iowa Construction Advocate Team conducted a review of John Cline and recommended to the DCSD School Board that the school be replaced. In the years since, district officials and facility committee members, along with additional engineers and architects, have extensively studied both facilities. StruXture Architects evaluated both buildings in 2013 and found similar conclusions in a detailed 45-page report.


The consensus is that investing funds in remodeling at John Cline or West Side is not a practical or cost-effective option for the district when it comes to meeting the goal of providing a 21st century learning environment for students. Instead, West Side Early Childhood Center and John Cline Elementary School be combined as one centrally located building.

Among the most pressing issues that West Side and John Cline face today:

Structural issues

  • Problems with the outdated structural, mechanical, and electrical systems.

  • Sanitary sewer systems that connect to the city’s main must be replaced and plumbing problems like toilet leaks and sewer backups are common.

  • The buildings do not allow for effective security measures to be implemented.

  • Asbestos can be found within the facilities.

  • There is a lack of adequate classrooms to accommodate the necessary amount of sections per grade.

  • The lack of air conditioning at both buildings impacts the entire school district’s ability to remain in session on hot days.

  • Playground drainage issues cause decaying leaves to collect in the fall and create foul odors.

Space issues

  • Both schools have architectural issues that create challenges for students, teachers, and support staff.

  • The buildings have a shortage of classrooms to accommodate Pre-K through 2nd grade and the square footage does not meet industry standards for primary classrooms.

  • Both schools lack rooms for meetings, conferences, AEA services, testing, etc.

  • Shared gymnasium and lunchroom space interferes with indoor activities and recess periods. 

  • John Cline has multiple interior rooms that lack windows or proper ventilation due to previous construction.

Search For a New Location

In 2016, the DCSD School Board and a shareholders group researched numerous possible locations for a new elementary building—both within and outside of Decorah's city limits.


They carefully evaluated each potential site for:

  • Location

  • Adequate square footage

  • Transportation and traffic flow

  • Ease of busing

  • Necessary infrastructure costs

  • Price and the owner's willingness to sell


After an extensive evaluation, the clear choice was to build on the Decorah CSD campus between Heivly and Claiborne Streets near downtown Decorah.

The Next Chapter

The City of Decorah North Alley District Master Planpresented in February 2023, includes designated space for the new elementary school. Some of the benefits of constructing the school at this site include:

  • An opportunity to improve traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian safety around both the elementary school and the high school.

  • ​Proximity to the high school provides opportunities for savings, including efficient food service operations, staff sharing, and transportation.

  • More curricular opportunities for interaction between high school and elementary students.

  • The city's parks and recreation program would have access to an additional gymnasium located near its offices.

  • This school would improve the appearance of one of the most visible areas of the community.


In October 2023, Decorah CSD purchased a city-owned parcel west of John Cline. This was done with the intention that the property would become the future home of a new elementary school that will replace John Cline and West Side.

This agreement also provided Decorah CSD with land the district was using, but did not own. This includes all of the ground where the varsity softball field is located and a portion of the varsity baseball diamond.

A Community-Driven Process

As the district moves forward with its pursuit of this proposed project, it’s vital that our community members have an opportunity to make their voices heard.


In April, a community survey was created to gather feedback about the potential construction of a new elementary school that would replace John Cline and West Side. Over 76% of the survey's respondents said they would support such a project, while 15.4% said they would not support the project and 8.1% said they were unsure.

Valuable feedback to open-ended questions was also collected from respondents, such as what they feel should be a focus of the district and the DCSD School Board when building a school.


Please use this form to submit any questions or feedback you have about the new elementary school project.

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