In an effort to reverse the nearly 15-year negative open enrollment trend in the district, the Waterloo School Board voted Jan. 13 to allow unlimited open enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year.

According to data presented at the meeting, since the 2016-2017 academic year, there has been a 34% increase in the number of pupils open enrolling into the district. This year, there are 35 open enrollees compared to 23 in the 2016-2017 school year.

District administrator Brian Henning said prior to 2016-2017, Waterloo limited the number of available seats for students seeking to open enroll into the district.

“We’ve done something different … in hopes that we try to encourage some of the people who are maybe considering a different district or wanting a change, to come look at Waterloo,” Henning said.

The district administrator said the number of students Waterloo schools can accept is based on the amount of space available.

Henning recommended the district not post limits on the number of students who can open enroll into the Waterloo School District.

“I’m in favor of taking kids who want to come here,” he said.

The data showed the section with the most open enrollment availability is grade 12 with 21 seats available; the district is anticipating 53 seniors next year. The number is based on the optimum number of students, which is 75 each for grades 9-12 based on the number of current staff. Grade 11 has the second most availability with 20 open seats.

Pupil services director Victoria Kalscheuer said since the district chose to not limit the number of open enrollees it will accept, it has not needed to increase the number of staff members to correspond with the additional students.

Business manager Sharon Peterson said the district can choose to deny open enrollment requests if there are not enough seats, if the student had been expelled or habitually truant from their home district, or if the district does not offer the special education services required for the student.

There is a financial gain to accepting open enrollees since the district receives funds from the home district of each pupil who chooses to open enroll into Waterloo schools.

“It’s a nice little revenue builder for us,” Henning said. However, this also means the district loses funds for any student who chooses to open enroll out of the local school. “We’ve been able to decrease the number of students who are going out but we started at a pretty high number so it’s going to take a while.”

Other board action:

• Peterson reported 39 annual fitness center memberships, 11 three-month fitness center passes and 20 other memberships including single-day fitness center passes or pool memberships had been sold from December through Jan. 13. This has resulted in more than $17,000 in sales. She said the district is still trying to determine when the expanded fitness center hours of operation will be in effect. Peterson believes that once the hours of operation are increased, the number of members will also increase.

• Heard from district curriculum director Elizabeth Gould about the possibility of moving to a full-day, every day 4-year-old kindergarten program. She said there would be many positive outcomes from expanding the program and, according to her, the district would not need to hire any additional staff – it would likely only need to shift some staff to other classrooms.

• Approved the retirements of third grade teacher Diane Kiehl, who has been with the district since 1984, and art teacher Nancy Schoenemen, who has been with the district since 1988, effective at the end of the current school year.

• Accepted the resignations of night custodian Tim Hellpap and pupil services special education administrative assistant Diane Preston-Bruenig. Hellpap’s resignation was effective Jan. 3 and Preston-Bruenig’s was Dec. 30.

• Approved hiring Sarah Spies, Madelyn Ponti, Alyssa Jaenke and Taylor Noel to work in the pool and fitness center.

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