WJHS roof talk; pandemic positions cut

The Waterloo School Board meeting Monday night centered mainly on the recent success of the Waterloo High School homecoming and the second quarter starting positively in the district, with future maintenance and cuts to temporary pandemic positions also receiving attention.

Several WHS administrators spoke highly of the recent festivities, noting homecoming week’s high attendance including the Powder Puff game’s record attendance and the success of the dance.

The board also approved a number of new employee considerations – including a new full-time maintenance worker, special education paraprofessional and part-time cafeteria workers.

During the meeting, Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron also mentioned the board would soon have to begin discussions on other staffing decisions related to positions added during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talk was prompted by the district’s recent use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund money to buy 100 Chromebooks on top of the 200 that were purchased at the start of the year.

Like other grants issued by the federal and state government through the pandemic, ESSER funds were provided to schools in order to help reduce the negative impact of the pandemic and reduce learning loss.

Charron said the district used the funds largely to pay for additional positions to help reduce class sizes and add social workers to the district.

With those funds soon drying up, Charron said the board will have to consider which of those temporary positions to cut.

Charron said it’s uncertain the district will be able to find matching revenues to maintain those positions, adding that “once that money’s gone, it’s gone.”

“I’m trying to have a very realistic approach to this that we’re not going to be able to sustain all these jobs that we added,” Charron said. “It’s not that we don’t want to, there’s just a reality.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved Charron’s request to apply for the School Maintenance Project Grant for next year through the Illinois State Board of Education.

According to Charron, this grant would provide a one-to-one dollar match from the state up to $50,000.

Charron noted that the district has been in the process of performing various upkeep and maintenance, replacing boilers, HVAC systems and roofs in buildings as well as the fact the district is currently in the process of updating its five-year facilities plan.

Charron specifically noted work that will soon have to be done on the Waterloo Junior High School roof as a clear expense that will likely mean the district will be accepted for the grant.

“In the junior high in particular, we have sections of the roof that are beyond their life expectancy, they’re out of warranty and a few of them are experiencing leaks during serious weather events,” Charron said, “so just knowing that that is an area where we will be spending money in the next couple of years, it was an easy place to identify for the purposes of securing this maintenance grant.”

Charron also made mention of an expected increase in the tax levy that he believes will be close to but still below 5 percent and thus should be approved at the next school board meeting in November.

Should the district require an increase to the tax levy greater than 5 percent, the board would have to hold a public hearing on the issue.

“We will probably approve it at the November meeting,” Charron said. “If we don’t, it will only be because the board wants to ask for more than that, which I don’t anticipate that they will.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web