The Des Moines Independent Community School District, the largest in the state, is governed by a seven-member board of directors who are elected at large to three-year staggered terms. The head administrator is the superintendent of schools.
The Des Moines public schools implement a variety of curriculum options for students at all levels. The district's Central Academy, established in 1985 for gifted students in grades 8 through 12, brings students together for half of the school day to learn among other gifted students; the other half is spent at their home school. At the middle and secondary levels, several school-to-work programs bring students into the real world of health care, agriculture, and business. The unique Downtown School offers small classes (16:1 student/teacher ratio), a year-round calendar with a six-week summer break and week-long breaks throughout the year, in three downtown locations accessible by skywalk to many downtown businesses. The Downtown School utilizes local businesses and the surrounding neighborhood as opportunities for learning; its locations are accessible to parents working downtown as well. Students in the Downtown School program number 160 and are ages 5 to 11. These and other innovative programs are possible because of the cooperative spirit between the school district and business community in the greater Des Moines area.
A "Schools First" plan is underway, utilizing some $317 million in funds to renovate or replace all schools in the district over a period of 10 years. By August of 2004 construction was completed on 14 schools.
The following is a summary of data regarding Des Moines public schools as of the 2003–2004 school year.
Total enrollment: 32,150
Number of facilities elementary schools: 40
middle schools: 10
senior high schools: 5
other: 10 special schools and programs
Student/teacher ratio: 13.5:1
Funding per pupil: $7,098
Five private and parochial school districts providing the Des Moines metropolitan area with educational alternatives are Des Moines Christian, Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools, Des Moines Jewish Academy, Grandview Park Baptist, and Mount Olive Lutheran. These schools educate approximately 5,700 students in the Des Moines area.
Public Schools Information: Des Moines Public Schools, 1801 16th Street, Des Moines, IA 50314; telephone (515)242-7911; fax (515)242-7579
Drake University, a private institution founded in 1881, enrolls about 4,300 students and grants undergraduate and graduate degrees in a range of disciplines through the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business Administration, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the School of Education, the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Law School. Drake operates a work experience program that includes cooperative education and internships.
Grand View College, a private, Lutheran-affiliated liberal arts school, educates approximately 1,750 students and awards associate and baccalaureate degrees in several fields of study; cross-registration with Drake University and Des Moines Area Community College is available. The Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine offers baccalaureate, master's, and first-professional degrees in a variety of health care areas such as osteopathic medicine and surgery, podiatric medicine and surgery, health care administration, and physical therapy.
Vocational, technical, and pre-professional education in Des Moines is provided by Des Moines Area Community College and AIB College of Business. Within commuting distance of the city are Iowa State University, an internationally renowned research university in Ames, Iowa, and Simpson College, a four-year liberal arts college in Indianola, Iowa.
The Public Library of Des Moines houses more than 500,000 volumes and about 950 periodical subscriptions in addition to audiotapes, videotapes, audio CDs, and CD-ROMs. The library system includes five branches in addition to its main building. As part of a $48 million renovation, building, and expansion project, construction on the New Central Library began in 2004 and is expected to be completed in 2005. Renovations at other branches were underway at that time as well. The library system is a depository for federal and state documents and government publications. The State Library of Iowa is also located in downtown Des Moines in the State Capitol Building; holdings include more than 453,000 volumes as well as a complete range of audio-visual materials and special collections on state of Iowa publications, law, medicine, public policy, and patents and trademarks. The library is a depository for state and patent documents.
The Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides Braille books, large print books, and cassettes and disks. The Drake University Library houses extensive holdings in all major department areas; the law library maintains an Iowa legal history collection. The Iowa Genealogical Society Library and the Grand View College Library also serve the community. The State Historical Society of Iowa Library maintains several collections, some of which reside in Des Moines.
A variety of specialized libraries and research centers located in the city are affiliated with hospitals, corporations, government agencies, law firms, the Blank Park Zoo and the Des Moines Art Center.
Public Library Information: Public Library of Des Moines, 100 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA 50309; telephone (515)283-4152