The Waterloo School Board plans to hold a special meeting Monday after earlier this week deciding to close its indoor facilities to all outside organizations, including local groups, effective Tuesday, Oct. 14 until the end of 2020. This does not include the pool or fitness center.
During the Oct. 13 board meeting, the elected officials discussed how a number of organizations, including the local Cub Scouts, Waterloo FFA Alumni, Watertown swim team, WYSO (Waterloo Youth Sports Organization) and DeForest-based Wisconsin Elite Girls Basketball Club, have requested to use the district facilities for various events.
According to the board information packet, it was noted Waterloo is one of a few area schools allowing activities and facility use. As such, it has become a popular among organizations looking for event host sites. However, there has been concern about the potential that groups from outside of Waterloo could potentially expose residents to the coronavirus.
Board President Matt Schneider said in discussions with legal counsel, it was determined the board could amend its existing policy to allow facility use by only local groups. However, as of now, the district could either allow all outside groups access to school facilities or not allow any group access to the district’s buildings.
Furthermore, the board president was told under the current policy, any outside group using a district facility needs to supply a COVID-19 mitigation plan.
“We don’t want to be in the business of directing exactly what they are supposed to do because know we’re overstepping our bounds of ‘You did everything you said you were going to do,’” Schneider said, adding the group renting the facility is responsible for ensuring the participants adhere to the mitigation plan.
“I would like to keep it open, I would like to keep our kids active, et cetera,” Schneider said. “But there’s a difference between a school-sponsored event and a club or organization-sponsored event.”
Vice President Nancy Thompson said one of her greatest concerns is that outside organizations are coming to Waterloo because their home community is not allowing the activities.
“Why do we want to be the one that’s allowing all this, bringing in potential (coronavirus) exposure to our community, to our students, to our school district if their community doesn’t want to do that or, by their mandates, they can’t,” she said.
Thompson feels it is appropriate to allow local youth to have access to the facilities but “I don’t think it’s our responsibility to make sure every other community can have access just because their community won’t do it.”
Several times throughout the meeting, the Wisconsin Elite Girls Basketball Club tournament, which had been slated for Oct. 17-18 in the new fieldhouse, was mentioned. To the best of any attendee’s knowledge, there were no Waterloo girls participating in the multi-team event.
Board member Jim Setz pointed out this tournament could include 10-12 teams, which means more than 100 children plus coaching staff, officials and parents would be using the district’s facility.
“Who is going to monitor them?” he asked in reference to ensure those participating in and attending the tournament are wearing masks as advised and practicing social distancing. “Local residents are very upset by this.”
Setz, like other board members, pointed out he did not want to deny local groups from using the indoor facilities, but said there needs to be some discretion as a way to decrease the potential of bringing COVID-19 to the community.
The board agreed to look at its policy and possibly amend it to limit facility use to local groups only during the current coronavirus pandemic. It intends to hold the special meeting Monday, Oct. 19.