A beneficial program that has offered Waterloo High School students a taste of the workplace for decades is now on the chopping block due to ongoing education funding concerns.
The WHS Co-op program was started by Violet Kueker in the 1970’s and taken over by Betty Wacker in the 1980’s. The program places WHS seniors in jobs related to their career goals, providing them the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience and help them decide if it is, in fact, a career they wish to pursue further.
Waterloo School Superintendent Jim Helton said that, in an effort to evaluate costs in the district’s education fund as part of continuing budget concerns associated with decreasing and late state funding, the district is discontinuing the Co-op program for the 2013-14 school year.
“It requires three hours of instructional time while only serving 20 students,” Helton explained. “It is a positive program, but we can no longer justify the cost associated with serving so few students. In addition, it will allow WHS to expand its accounting offerings for next year.”
Laurie Grubb has coordinated the WHS Co-op program since 2003.
“Without Co-op, students will not have the opportunity for this career exploration and on-the-job training their senior year,” she said. “Also, without Co-op, many employers in Waterloo are not going to have the opportunity to work with our great WHS students and have that connection to the school district that they have now.”
Grubb said that over the years, there have been many students who have stayed on with their Co-op employer after high school, or who have returned to their Co-op employer after college and are currently working in management positions.
“Some of our employers have been employing Co-op students for many years, and I know the employers will miss that direct connection to the high school,” she said.
Grubb pointed to a longstanding program partnership with Human Support Services as well. HSS has enlisted the help of WHS Co-op students since 1993, she said.
In addition to the business classes Grubb is currently teaching, next year she will also teach resource management in place of Co-op. These classes were moved from the business department when one of those teaching positions was eliminated two years ago, Grubb explained.
“WHS continues to have a strong offering of business classes that include accounting, computer concepts, sports and entertainment marketing, business concepts, and introduction to computer applications,” she said.