The Waterloo School Board heard updates on ongoing district construction projects, graduation plans and this year’s budget at its monthly meeting Monday night.
The most notable construction update concerned the work being done to repair the turf field at Waterloo High School.
The board learned that most of the earthwork is completed and work on a concrete ditch has begun. Work on the field itself has not started yet.
Waterloo Superintendent Brian Charron said he also has not heard how much of that $840,000 project, which was necessitated by flooding last year, insurance will cover.
“I don’t have a status yet on the extent to what (insurance) is paying, but they have got all the information from the architect as far as the design. They’re also looking at what the original quality was,” Charron reported, noting he would push for an update as the Aug. 1 deadline for that project’s completion nears.
Also in the construction realm, the school board OK’d a $29,864 contract to replace the shingle roof at Gardner Elementary.
In terms of graduation, the board unanimously agreed to set guidelines for attendance at the graduation ceremony set for May 23 in the WHS gym.
“We’re looking forward to a normal graduation ceremony,” Charron said. “The health department has approved us for up to four guests per graduate to attend graduation. So that is what we recommend the board approve.”
Charron said that is consistent with other schools in the area and would allow 784 people to attend graduation, with only that many tickets being created.
Charron said students can share tickets if they have more than they need and pointed out the ceremony will also be livestreamed.
“We know it’s not perfect, but it’s the best that we’re able to offer at this point,” Charron said.
A final noteworthy update the board heard was about the district’s budget for this year. The district conducts a budget review around this time each year.
Charron said highlights include that the district saved some money in areas like cafeteria costs, spent a little more on items like wages after recent contract negotiations, and did not get as much revenue as normal because of factors like low interest rates, cheaper athletic fees, and Kennel Club not being offered.
“Our budget is actually looking a little bit better than we anticipated,” Charron summarized. “The bottom line has actually improved a little bit.”
Last, in a rare instance, the board heard from a parent during the public comment section of the meeting.
James Link, the father of a WHS football player, complained to the board about having to wear a face mask when attending the team’s games.
He argued Waterloo’s policy that fans must wear masks is in conflict with state guidelines that say people “should” wear masks and that do not mention mask wearing when socially distanced at outdoor venues.
“The school added this rule on its own, and I doubt that anybody is qualified over there to make those kinds of decisions,” Link said before giving his reason for why the school added the mandate. “The only answer is control. The school already controls the athletes and staff, the only people they did not have control over was the audience.”
Link said he was approached at a recent football game in Jerseyville by Waterloo Athletic Director Brian Unger and told he needed to wear a mask. Link said he disagreed, outlining the reasons he gave the board.
After the game, Unger called him and told him he could not attend Waterloo’s next game.
Link said he did attend after the Waterloo Police Department told him it was OK as long as he wore a mask. If he did not, Link said he was told he would be cited for trespassing.
Link reluctantly complied, but at other games he said he noticed people related to the opposing teams were not wearing a face covering and were not ejected from the facility.
“All that seems to matter is that Waterloo is wearing a mask no matter where they were, home or away,” Link said. “The only thing that makes sense is that somebody wanted to create the impression that Waterloo is still nervous about COVID, or personal views were being pushed upon spectators. This mandated mask rule is a political weapon to ensure that outcome.”
Link concluded by calling on the board to “strike down” the “questionable” mask rule, remove the punishment of being arrested for not wearing a mask and investigate to determine if the administration is “making decisions based on their personal political beliefs and if so please take corrective action.”
As is customary, the board did not respond to Link’s comments at the meeting.