Nearly any student who wants to open-enroll into the Waterloo School District for the 2021-2022 academic year will be able to after the school board voted Jan. 11 to set an unlimited availability for seats across all grades; the one exception is for the PreK-4 special education program. Due to anticipated staff shortages, the district will not have the availability to allow elementary school children to open enroll in that program.

District Superintendent Brian Henning said this would not preclude any families who already have a child open-enrolled into the district to open-enroll any younger students into the PreK-4 special education program.

“Any family who has a regular ed student and then they qualify for special education or any siblings of students already in the district already have rights to continue or enroll in the district,” he said. “This would only be for new open enrollment students whose family is new to the district altogether.”

Henning explained it is difficult to find PreK-4 special education staff to hire and the current number of students the Waterloo School District is serving in that age group of the program is already high “to the point where if we even took one more student we would probably be in a situation where we would need to hire another teacher.”

It was noted if a PreK-4 student open enrolls into the district and it was determined the child needed an individual education plan (IEP), Waterloo would be required to provide him or her with special education and any related services.

The superintendent hopes the district will be able to have availability for open enrollees in the PreK-4 special education program in the future.

According to the board meeting packet, in the past several years the district has not set a limit on the number of open enrollees it would accept; this is a marked change from what the district had previously done for decades. The decision to allow to unlimited open enrollment seats is to reverse the negative open enrollment trend in the district, where more families opt to open enroll out of the Waterloo School District.

“In order to promote growth in the district, we need to be as welcoming as we can to any students in all areas,” Henning said.

District gears up for summer school

With the regular school year

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