Iowa City Community School District to collaborate with ICON Arts Academy

The new academy and the school district partnered to offer online courses through the district for academy students.


Matt Sindt

The front door of 123 North Linn Street is seen through a window on Saturday Nov. 19, 2022.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

Iowa City Community School District will provide online schooling for students enrolled in the new downtown Iowa City ICON Arts Academy.

ICON Arts Academy is a performing arts school designed to help students further their artistic pursuits. It is the first of its kind in the state, and students will take online English, math, science, and social studies classes through the Iowa City school district starting in the 2023-24 school year.

The partnership started two years ago when the district launched its online learning curriculum in the wake of COVID-19. Seeing that an online option was available, Beth Brown and Leslie Nolte, the ICON Academy’s founders, started when the district began designing a program.

“We said, we’re looking down the road, we are excited about the online program in the public school because we think it’s going to be a great fit for some of our arts, our very serious art students,” Brown, ICON’s curriculum and instruction director, said. “We’ve been interacting with the admin from ICCSD for two years on this topic.”

Iowa City schools Superintendent Matt Degner said the online model works for ICON’s students who need a lighter course load with the same education requirements.

“We’re looking to do that through our online programming because that fits into the training schedule easier for students,” Degner said.

The district’s piece of the partnership is funded through revenue generated by students from out of state who enroll in the academy. Degner said out-of-state tuition will match the supplemental state aid that resident students receive.

“That creates a budget for us to be able to work on to be able to provide this educational experience,” Degner said.

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From a funding perspective, having more incoming students will benefit the district as well, he said.

Nolte, executive and artistic director of ICON, said through the district, students from the academy will take four core classes per trimester. There will also be a wide variety of classes for students to choose from.

“The kids will be able to be a part of the classes, like the registration process, the way in which they would if they were going into the school traditionally,” Nolte said.

Students will have 10 hours a week set aside for the online courses, which is roughly two hours a day of work. Learning coaches will also provide them with additional support, Brown said.

From the core classes, students will earn their high school diploma as well as an art certification from the academy when they graduate.

Guidance counselors will also help students determine what requirements they need to pursue their plans after they graduate, depending on what their goals are.

For students who plan to attend college, they may need to look into receiving additional requirements, Brown said. For those who are looking to receive the basic requirements, it may be different.

“Maybe they just want to get their basics. They want to go to Broadway after they get done with ICON,” Brown said. “They’re not going to be looking to take four years of science. It’s just going to depend on each student.”

Ultimately, the partnership allows students who desire a different educational path to pursue their interests in a way that best suits them.

“It is delicate, but that’s not something we can plan ahead of time, which I think we’re pretty proud of, because it’s not a scripted education,” Brown said. “It’s an education that works for each student.”