Public forum planned for November 13 to discuss the future of Waterville Elementary School


A public forum is being hosted Monday, November 13 by the Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors to answer questions and gather further feedback from the general public in regard to the future of Waterville Elementary School. Declining enrollment, water well issues and other building considerations have forced the board into a decision-making process on the future of the school, with this public forum meant to be an information gathering and distributing session before the board makes a decision at its December 18 regular session. The forum is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Waukon High School Auditorium. Photo by Sara Aleckson-Melcher.

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors and Administration will be hosting a public forum Monday, November 13 regarding the future of Waterville Elementary School. The forum is open to all members of the public and will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Waukon High School auditorium.

ACSD PLAN OF CONSIDERATION
Citing concerns of districtwide declining enrollment, troubling water sample issues at Waterville Elementary and the building's age, the board of directors had initially discussed future considerations for Waterville Elementary at a September 7 work session before revealing a plan for consideration at the board's September 18 regular meeting. That plan included the mailing out to residents of the ACSD in October an eight-page report regarding its decision-making tools and information for Waterville Elementary and the district as a whole. The next step will be this November 13 public forum, with the board slated to ultimately make a decision on the fate of Waterville Elementary at its December 18 regular session, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Waukon High School Library.

FORUM FORMAT
The forum will begin with an opening statement from Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors President Al Rissman, with some ground rules for discussion during the forum being relayed at that time as well. The forum will then be opened up for the general public to make comments and ask questions that have not been addressed previously. There is no plan to make any presentations, as school district officials feel that information has already been relayed in the report mailed in October. It is also hoped by ACSD leaders that the questions that have already been asked and answered will not need to be addressed yet again in this forum, in an effort to avoid redundancy.
In addition to the ACSD Board of Directors, the entire administrative staff of the ACSD is scheduled to be in attendance at the forum to field and answer questions. "The board would like to hear from the communities of the district regarding the information sent out," ACSD Superintendent of Schools Dave Herold said. "They want to hear their constituents' opinion on whether the school should be kept open or should it be closed. The information introduced earlier through the newsletter (report) was done early so it enabled anyone with a question to have plenty of time to ask that question. I am not sure we could include any more information without being redundant."

QUESTIONS ASKED
In an effort to both inform residents of the school district and offer them ample opportunity to ask additional questions since the announcement that a decision was going to be made on the future of Waterville Elementary School, the ACSD has continued to field questions and reply with answers in regard to their initial report information and other considerations for Waterville Elementary. Those questions and the ACSD Board of Directors replies have been posted to the school district's website, www.allamakee.k12.ia.us, and are also being reprinted below and throughout this week's edition of The Standard with permission of the school district.

The following are FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) from the original Waterville Elementary Report mailed in October:

If Waterville Elementary remains open, will it look any different from this year?
No, the staff at Waterville is as small as it can get and still maintain a high standard of educational opportunities for kids. Also, most building costs are fixed and there is little room for efficiencies at this point. In addition, because it is an old three-story building, closing off floors and other cost-saving measures to save on heat and electricity is not an effective option.

Will all teachers and staff members at Waterville be retained for 2018-19 if Waterville closes?
Yes, teachers and staff members will be retained if Waterville Elementary closes.

What will be done to the building if it closes? What will happen to the playground equipment if the building closes?
The Board of Education will need to determine what is to be done with the building and playground equipment if it closes.

Will transportation costs be higher if we close Waterville Elementary? Will students be on the buses longer if we close the building?
No, transportation costs will not increase, they should decrease. We would have the same number of bus routes, but we would save miles for field trips and other special events (approximately 30- 40 times a year). The Waterville Elementary bus barn would not have to be heated and we would not have to keep an extra bus in Waterville.  Also, we would not have any bus repair or fuel runs to Waterville. The total miles for bus trips would be less to Waukon than Waterville (about six miles per day less).
In almost every case, students would be on the bus less time in the morning.  Many students (especially the morning routes) would be on the bus a shorter time because we have a number of buses that meet at certain locations to transfer students from bus to bus. There is some wait time for buses for this transfer. Transfer routes would be eliminated if Waterville Elementary closed.

Is there enough room at West and East Elementary for Waterville students?
Yes, there is plenty of room for the students from Waterville at both West and East Elementary.

What will happen to the Parents for Progress organization? What about the funds that are currently held by this organization?
Parents for Progress is a group established outside the school. That organization will need to determine the answers to those questions.

Will class sizes be larger at West and East Elementary if Waterville Elementary closes?
Some class sizes may increase slightly and some would be lower.

The following were questions submitted to the ACSD Board of Education by various individuals and/or groups following the mailing of the initial Waterville Elementary Report to district constituents. These questions and the answers provided by the Board, along with the initial questions frequently asked about Waterville Elementary that appeared in that Waterville Elementary Report, can also be found on the school district's website at www.allamakee.k12.ia.us:

The word 'chloroforms' was used to describe the bacteria in the water at Waterville Elementary. Is this correct?
The term 'chloroforms' was used to describe bacteria in the drinking and cooking water at Waterville Elementary. This should have read ‘coliforms' because that is the term used in the State Hygienic Laboratory (University of Iowa) when describing levels of bacteria that are present or absent in the water at Waterville Elementary.

Will the Allamakee Community School District boundary change if Waterville Elementary closes?
No, the school district's boundary will remain the same.

If the teachers and staff will be retained for 2018-19, please list where the savings will come from based on the $722,353?
The savings will not come all at one time. We anticipate some retirements each year along with some staff members leaving for other communities and jobs. As those things happen, we will not replace some teachers and others will be replaced with teachers at a lower salary. The largest savings the first year or two will be from the costs of maintaining the building and any staff members that leave and are not replaced or replaced with someone with a lower salary.

If the school board decides to close Waterville Elementary at the December board meeting, when will the school close?
If the decision were made to close Waterville Elementary, it would remain open for the 2017-18 school year.

If the decision were made to close Waterville Elementary, what will happen with the memorabilia from the Waterville school system?
Currently, there is no plan for any of the Waterville school memorabilia. The school board is open to suggestions from the community.

How many students, up to 5th grade, reside within the Waterville boundary area but attend either East or West Elementary or St. Pat’s and not Waterville?
To the best of our knowledge, with a few exceptions*, there are no students living within the Waterville boundary area but attending West or East Elementary. Since St. Pat’s is not a public school, we do not have their enrollment information and cannot speculate on how many Waterville students attend St. Pat’s school.
* Due to HIPPA and FERPA guidelines, we are unable to disclose specific details on any of these circumstances.

Why is there now room at West and East to accommodate Waterville students? The (mailed) report implies this has always been the case; however, it has not been the case until very recently - this is misleading. What has changed? We assume declining enrollment at those school buildings as well? Whatever the case, this should have been explained more fully in the report to residents.
The report simply states there is room at both East and West Elementary for Waterville Elementary students. Declining enrollment has played a factor in making more space available for Waterville Elementary students at both buildings.

If the well is bad and needs replacing, and the use of Culligan water will be in place for the rest of the school year, why are students and staff and visitors using the well water at present? Culligan water was only used for two weeks while the well was being flushed through after summer, and then for a week or so after to "use up" the bottled water already purchased. This would again appear to be misleading people.
Culligan water should not have been taken out of Waterville Elementary. After this question was raised, Culligan water is back at Waterville Elementary. Culligan water will remain there all year for the safety of the staff and students. During the time Culligan water was taken out of Waterville, all water sample tests came back negative for bacteria.

Page 2 of the report states "because of declining enrollment and fixed costs for running an attendance center, the 'projected costs' are alarming." We understand that the current teaching principal is retiring at the end of this year. It appears by your salary calculations for the following year that you would be replacing her with someone equally as high on the salary table. This contradicts the earlier statement in the report about replacing retirements with younger teachers on a lower grade. Is this an oversight in your projection, or are we missing something?
Projections are done with current staff members in their current positions. Retirements and those staff members that leave the district are not considered as these are not readily known at this time.

If the Waterville school closes, will the land and building loose the tax-exempt status?
As long as the property is owned by the school district or another governmental agency, the tax-exempt status will remain the same.

What are the enrollment trends and projections for West and East Elementary?

East Elementary (3rd-6th grade) Enrollment History
'97-'98    355    '09-'10    251
'98-'99    359    '10-'11    235
'99-'00    343    '11-'12    248
'00-'01    343    '12-'13    260    '01-'02    343    '13-'14    250
'02-'03    315    '14-'15    266
'03-'04    316    '15-'16    184*
'04-'05    286    '16-'17    190*
'05-'06    274    '17-'18    187*
'06-'07    262    '18-'19    196**
'07-'08    261
'08-'09    264

West Elementary (Kindergarten-2nd grade)
Enrollment History
97-98    240    09-10    219
98-99    209    10-11    217
99-00    213    11-12    206
00-01    209    12-13    222
01-02    199    13-14    228
02-03    201    14-15    198
03-04    197    15-16    198
04-05    211    16-17    191
05-06    202    17-18    202
06-07    192    18-19    179**
07-08    208
08-09    210

*Enrollment 3rd-5th grade
**Projected enrollment

How was the projected enrollment taken?
Projections are determined by moving the class from the current year into the class above. Kindergarten projections are based on pre-school numbers.

It was our understanding that all households in the Allamakee Community School District were to receive the pamphlet that was mailed in early November.  There were several in Waterville Elementary school district that did not receive the information. Why?
Newsletters were sent out to district patrons much as if we do our annual progress report. If a patron did not receive a newsletter, they could ask the school for one or read it online on the school’s website. The newsletter was sent to the postal customers within our district.

Why was this brought up after the school board elections?
The subject of building enrollment was addressed at the board work session Thursday, September 7. This was before the board election September 12. In addition, enrollment at each building is a subject of board discussion each year.

Transportation costs were addressed, but what about the logistics? How long would a young Harpers Ferry student be on a bus to get to Waukon?
Most students from Harpers Ferry will not be on the bus any longer than they are currently. There may be a few students, though, that may be on a bit longer, but no more than five minutes longer. No student from Harpers Ferry will be on the bus any longer than 45 minutes.

How do you come up with the figure of "30-40 times per year for field trips and other special events" listed in the Q&A section of the report? The students don't and never have gone on that many field trips and special events. Additionally, not all Waterville field trips have been paid for by the district.
In 2015, there were 35 bus trips for Waterville students.  In 2016, there were 32 bus trips, and in 2017, (so far) there have been 22 bus trips. The bus trips are figured in calendar years. These trips do not include the suburban or van use but only bus trips.  These trips include field trips, Project SEALED, band, Kids Club, Homecoming activities and the musical.

What do you plan to do with the cost savings you say there will be by closing the school?
If the school closes, any savings will be put toward maintaining our current staff and programs. State aid for schools has been very poor the past three years awarding schools only an average of 1.53% for state supplemental aid yearly. This legislative session looks even bleaker for schools and it could result in 1% state supplemental aid or less for schools. In addition, technology, college, and career and technical education programs costs continue to rise.

What will happen with the after school program that parents and children rely on?
The after school program is funded with federal grants that are awarded every three to five years. The Waterville program is on year five of a five-year grant this school year. We are currently writing the application for a new grant at Waterville. If we are awarded the grant and Waterville closes, the State has assured us that those funds would follow the students.

Why is this issue not brought to a vote by residents of the school district?
The decision to close an attendance center is a school board decision. There are procedural steps, set by the State Board of Education, that a school board may take when acting to close an attendance center, but are not required by law. Nowhere in these guidelines is a district vote mentioned. We are following these guidelines.

What are the electrical problems at the school?
One of the biggest problems with the electrical service for Waterville school is the panels that house the wires. The existing panels have screw-in-style fuses which are no longer used, especially in a commercial style building. This system dates back to the original year it was built. To bring the building up to National Electric code, you would have to change all the panels to the new breaker style which you will see in homes, just on a different scale.
You would not only change panels and breakers, but it would include all wiring also. This part of the project would be very time consuming because all wiring would be exposed in conduit on the outside of the walls. Every floor in the building, including the bus garage, would have to be rewired.
The electrician that works on the building for the school district has stated not to trust any of the outlets in the building that have not been rewired. He said the integrity of the grounding capability has been compromised and there may be no grounding at all. He said 90% of the building does not have grounding capability and the other 10% that has grounding capability has been put in place for the computer labs and the boilers.

If the school closes what will be done with the property? Will you advise the City of Waterville of your intentions for the building and land located in the city? If the school closes, don’t you still have to upkeep the building?
Currently, the school board has no plans for the property if the school closes. Until the decision is made, whether the school will stay open or not, no plans will be made. If the school closes, the school board will advise any appropriate parties of plans for the property.

What will be the price per student at East and West if Waterville closes?
Based on the projected enrollments and expenses, if East and West Elementary were to absorb all of Waterville’s salary and benefit costs, the 2017-18 cost per student would be approximately $7,260/student at East Elementary and $6,740/student at West Elementary. The 2018-2019 cost per student would be approximately $7,570/student at East Elementary and $7,750/student at West Elementary.

Based on the listed non-personnel "fixed costs" (utilities, etc.) It would appear that greater efficiencies and more geographic county support could be gained by closing the East Elementary building in Waukon and bussing students to Waterville. This could happen along the lines of what is done at Eastern Allamakee Community School District and MFL/MarMac Community School District. Has the board looked at this option and if not, why not? You can be sure that Eastern Allamakee and others are going to be watching how you handle the use of facilities not in Waukon, and what it might mean for them in the long term.
The board is considering all possible options.

Tuckpointing, electrical concerns, the heating system (boiler) and roofing concerns - are they all paid through the PPEL portion of the district's funding? If so, how does Waterville's use of PPEL funds compare proportionately with the other district buildings?
Any capital improvements - tuckpointing, electrical concerns, the heating system (boiler), and roofing concerns - would be paid either through the PPEL or SAVE funds. In 2016-17 total PPEL and SAVE expenditures were approximately $1.75 million. Of that total, approximately $120,000 (7%) was used for capital improvements, repairs and technology at Waterville (after district-wide allocations). This is proportionate with the Waterville enrollment, which is 6% of total enrollment.

Is there a map showing the line that determines Waterville enrollment? If so, when was this map last updated?
Below is a link to the current district map, showing the boundaries between Waukon and Waterville enrollment with a thick red line. This boundary was set in the 1970s and has not changed since that time.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_mHZ-v9JIBcS3VmRVFSXzdYbTQ/view?usp=sh...

How does the Transportation Department come up with the figure of a saving of six miles per day if the Waterville building closed? It would be nice to see some numbers to support the suppositions made in this section.

Waterville Miles   Miles
Bus #5 Elon to Waterville 6.5
Bus #10 Old East to Waterville 4.1
Bus #19 Rossville to Waterville 5.5
  1 Bus Shuttle to Waukon to Return Drivers 14.6
    30.7
  Twice a Day (A.M./P.M.) 2
    61.4
     
Waukon Miles if Waterville Closes    
Bus #5 Elon to Waukon 8.1
Bus #10 Old East to Waukon 10.9
Bus #19 Rossville to Waukon 8.5
  No Shuttle Needed -
    27.5
  Twice a Day (A.M./P.M.) 2
    55.0
     
  Current Waterville Miles 61.4
  Miles if Waterville Closes 55.0
  Daily Miles Saved 6.4

 

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