Focus on fall for Waterloo schools

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As students prepared to close out the school year, the Waterloo School Board looked to the future during its May meeting. 

Much of the conversations last Monday regarded the next academic year, from employing new teachers to addressing enrollment concerns within the elementary schools. 

A large incoming kindergarten class on top of a “very, very tight year” at Zahnow Elementary prompted the district to consider moving classes that would normally be at Zahnow to the district’s other elementary schools. 

Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron said that based on discussions with teachers and other district employees, the district has started planning to relocate early childhood and pre-K classes to Gardner Elementary, which traditionally houses grades four and five. 

“It seemed to be the solution that garnered the most cooperation and excitement as opposed to the other options we had,” Charron said. “It won’t be perfect, but we’re going to try to make it as close to perfect as possible.” 

Charron said the district considered placing portable classrooms on the front lawn of Zahnow, but due to these trailers requiring updates and travel, it was not a cost effective option. Moving students from Zahnow to Rogers would most likely require splitting up grades and might not be sustainable should the Rogers population see an influx, Charron said. 

In turn, moving early childhood and pre-K to Gardner seemed to be the best option, Charron said. 

After hearing from a concerned parent, board member Neil Giffhorn – who is currently on the committee devoted to addressing enrollment issues along with board member Gary Most – explained the district’s youngest students would be in an area of Gardner more removed from Gardner’s older students. 

Charron said once the plan is more affirmative, he hopes to host an “open house” of sorts so Zahnow parents and guardians could see where their students will be at Gardner. Those with questions, comments or concerns may contact Zahnow principal Justin Imm, Gardner principal Jessica Washausen or special education coordinator Julie Bender, Charron said. 

“This is not a decision just for the board to make, or for me to make, or for a principal to make. We’re going to want to be engaged with parents and teachers and admin, probably all elementary principals,” Charron said.

He stressed this is not a permanent solution, but more of a first step in prompting the district to consider how to best provide for a growing student population. 

“I think it’s important for the community to know that this is a temporary fix,” Charron said. “The bottom line is we’re going to be looking for opportunities to add on to Zahnow Elementary, to add on to Rogers and to add on to Gardner. Adding on to Rogers and Gardner is not necessary right now, but we feel like we all need to take a very holistic approach as to what all of our facility needs are, what our space is that’s available at each of our buildings, what makes the most sense and then make a commitment.” 

Waterloo Curriculum Coordinator John Schmieg said he and the district’s technological staff have been preparing and distributing new Chromebooks and iPads to be used in the upcoming school year. The board also voted to approve a new drivers education instructor, seasonal summer help and high school social studies and elementary teachers for the 2022-23 school year. 

In terms of upcoming renovations and improvements, the board awarded bids for the exterior stair replacement and updating the fire alarm system at the junior high, as well as those for playground and parking lot improvements. 

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