CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The University of Northern Iowa has been given permission to move forward with the demolition of the shuttered Malcolm Price Laboratory School.
The Iowa Board of Regents unanimously approved the request Wednesday during a telephone meeting. The university plans to keep the field house and a portion of the west wing, which is being renovated to house the Child Development Center. Demolition is expected to cost about $500,000 and likely will happen this spring or summer.
UNI President Ben Allen closed the school, which was to served as the state's research and development school, during budget cuts that also claimed dozens of university academic programs. The closure also sparked a lawsuit questioning the board's authority to close the school. That lawsuit is still making its way through the judicial system, but Michael Hager, the university's vice president for administration and financial services, said the court has "not prevented us from moving forward with this request."
With the research and development school closed, the university is fulfilling its promise to the state through the Iowa Research and Development Center for Education Innovation.
The center will provide "the infrastructure to conduct research throughout Iowa and to disseminate research findings on a statewide and national basis," according to meeting documents.
Early focal areas will include researching model practices in field experiences for pre-service educators, addressing student achievement gaps at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels and examining the increasing diversity of preK-12 student demographics.
Dwight Watson, the dean of the College of Education, said the center also will give the university the opportunity to bring in research fellows who can offer their research expertise for a specific period of time.
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The university has committed $300,000 for the project for the current fiscal year.
"Last year we had no money for research and development," Allen told the regents. "All the funding we got through per pupil and our own internal funds went to the operation of the preK-12 teaching and training of our own students at UNI. So the $300,000 is an increase from last year."
Allen added that the funding will likely "grow into a much larger amount" next year. The university is also looking at ways to leverage its money for private donations through the foundation.
"We believe this is a more transparent, more accountable way of finding out how well we are doing with the research and development," he said.
Watson said a national search could begin this spring for the center's director. He said they are looking for someone "with a national profile who might have worked at a research and development center before."
The UNI Teacher Education Executive Council will oversee the center. A statewide advisory council and standing institutional research committee will be established in 2013.