Waterloo School Board OKs in-person; turf work

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The Waterloo School Board approved a plan at its meeting Monday night to bring the most students physically back to school since the pandemic began starting next month. 

The board also OK’d more than $1 million in contracts for work in the district – including the track and field at Waterloo High School. 

For the updated return to school plan, the board unanimously approved a plan to have students at Waterloo Junior High School and WHS attend daily from 8:30 a.m. to noon starting March 15, almost a year to the day since schools statewide shut down because of the novel coronavirus. 

Those who want to continue learning only remotely will have the option to do so. 

Superintendent Brian Charron said three factors have changed to make this plan possible — the positivity rate has dropped, hospitalizations in this region have “improved significantly” and at least some teachers have had access to their first shot of vaccine and should get the second one before March 15. 

“A lot of students need daily interaction with their teacher, and we feel like we can safely provide that starting in the fourth quarter for the remainder of the school year,” Charron said. 

Charron cautioned, however, that the district may move back to its current hybrid plan if those factors change for the worse before the end of the school year. 

“We will continue to be cognizant of these factors. We look at these metrics every day,” he said. “At this point, we have relative confidence that we are going to be able to go the rest of the year this way.” 

Also at its February meeting, the board approved three contracts for work scheduled to be at least substantially completed in the district by the end of summer. 

The largest and most expensive contract was on the turf and field at WHS, which was heavily damaged by flooding last August. At the recommendation of Hurst-Roche, Inc., the district’s architect, the board unanimously OK’d a contract with Byrne & Jones in St. Louis for $840,000. 

That project will include using a camera in the underground storm sewer to examine those pipes, completing earthwork, concrete work and drainage improvements to increase flood protection for the facility, replacing the track surface and installing a new and improved type of turf called Sprinturf.  

“It’s really what the vast majority of fields have been since your original installation,” Hurst-Roche Senior Architect Tim Downen told the board. “It is a no-cost change.”

The district received two bids for this specialty project, with Byrne & Jones being the lowest. 

It received four bids for the next most expensive project, which has a price tag of $178,000. 

That money will go to Integrated Facility Services in Fenton, Mo., to replace some old, troublesome boilers at WJHS. 

“They are completely on board. They are ready to go,” Downen said of IFS. 

The board voted 6-0 to award that bid, with board member Gary Most abstaining. 

Board members James Yaekel Jr. and Kim Ahne voted against the least expensive contract, but it was still approved 5-2. 

The contract is to completely tear off and replace the roof of the maintenance shop building across from the district’s unit office near WJHS. 

The district got 11 bids on that project, with the low bid coming from Kehrer Brothers West Roofing, Inc. in Albers for $66,750. 

Yaekel voiced concerns with that company because he said he found some Occupational Health and Safety Administration violations when researching it. 

Downen said his company has worked with Kehrer Brothers before and had positive experiences.

“I’ve heard some rumblings, but all I can speak to is our experience,” he said. 

The final noteworthy items the board approved were for amended salaries for its highest-profile administrators and a one-year contract for several other district leaders. 

The salary amendments were for Special Education Coordinator Julie Bender, Curriculum Coordinator Johnathan Schmieg, principals Lori Costello, Nicholas Schwartz, Jessica Washausen, Brian Smith, Mary Gardner and Assistant WHS Principal Christine Osterhage. 

The one-year contracts were for Assistant WJHS Principal Amber Cruser, Business/Office Manager-Executive Secretary Marla Byrd, Director of Cafeterias Ruth Mason, Technology Supervisor Nicholas Hergenroeder and Computer Technician David Robertson. 

Both those agreements were for the current school year, but the pandemic delayed negotiations. 

The board at its recent meetings had approved the teachers’ contract and non-certified personnel contracts for the current year, both of which had notable raises. 

These administrator contracts and salary changes were more minor, Charron said, but individuals will now get back pay. 

The board voted 5-1 to OK salary changes, with Ahne abstaining and John Caupert voting against them, and 6-1 to approve the one-year contract, with Caupert being the lone dissenting vote. 

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