While there were many questions surrounding whether the Waterloo High School fall sports season would even be held and the board ultimately made the decision, there seems to be no question basketball and wrestling will move forward.

Superintendent Brian Henning made the announcement at the Nov. 9 school board meeting. He noted the three fall teams had successful seasons “especially given the adversity that they faced with not knowing if we were going to have sports, the sports started late and then not knowing which contests we would be involved in.”

Henning praised the actions of the athletes and coaching staff that were able to adapt to the necessary changes for the fall sports season to be conducted.

As the winter sports season approaches, the superintendent noted one significant change made by the Capital Conference pertaining to contests – each athlete is allowed four spectators instead of six. Like the fall sports guidelines, the four individuals should reside within the same household. Henning said there was a lot of support from schools in the conference to only allow two spectators per athlete, but the compromise was to allow four.

“That will definitely be an obstacle for families try to work around as some players have split families and what do you do with Grandma and Grandpa, and siblings and aunts and uncles,” the superintendent said. “Personally, I thought we could stick with the 6 per household … but now that it’s become a conference rule, we have to fall in line with the conference.”

All basketball players and wrestlers will be required to wear masks while competing per the conference guidelines.

On the subject of masks, Henning noted that as the fall sports season’s progressed, some of the athletes became a bit more lax on abiding by the district’s face covering requirements.

“I know this isn’t going to be very popular, but sometimes in this position you have to say unpopular things,” he said.

“I thought our students and our coaches did a great job when they came and presented to you just before school started about the importance of sports and they assured us they would follow the rules and do what they needed to keep the sports season going,” Henning said. “I felt their commitment towards the end of the season fell by the wayside a little bit.”

The superintendent emphasized that the ability to have sports seasons depends on keeping athletes and staff healthy and safe, which includes wearing masks.

“I can tell you, it doesn’t go over real well in the community when we are closed for in-person instruction at the high school this week but we have athletic teams who are forgetting to put their masks on at times,” Henning said. “It’s really important and we need to work to remind each other how important it is that we do that.”

Board Vice President Nancy Thompson inquired what type of measures would be taken for student athletes not complying with the district’s face coverings mandate. The superintendent said when instances are brought to the administration’s attention it needs to be addressed accordingly based on the rules in the student and family handbooks.

According to the high school parent-student handbook, if a student removes their mask without permission from a staff member, the student will be subjected to a one-day out of school suspension; the student will continue to learn virtually. A second violation results in a two-day suspension while attending school remotely. The third and subsequent masking violations for removing a mask without staff permission are continuing to learning virtually through the end of the term.

Donner to retire in January

After more than 20 years serving as the Waterloo High School principal, Brad Donner will retire from the position Jan. 22, 2021. Following the meeting, Henning said current PreK-8 Principal Shawn Bartlet will transition to the position; Elizabeth Gould will continue to serve as the PreK-8 principal. The superintendent said the district is still determining how the PreK-8 administration will look for the remainder of the year, but it is likely it will continue with the current staffing.

He is not the only administrative staff member to offer up a resignation; Business Director Sharon Peterson also submitted her resignation effective Nov. 30. Henning said the position has been posted and the district intends to fill it as soon as possible. If a qualified candidate is not found, the district may hire a service or interim person to serve in the position.

The third resignation was from Jen Mortensen, who served as the technology coordinator and instructional coach. Henning said the position will not be filled this year, but will likely be brought back in some format for the 2021-2022 school year. He said the district will look to see if any current staff is qualified to take on some of the work Mortensen completed in her position.

COVID-19 update

While the district has needed to shut down each of its schools once due to the number of confirmed coronavirus, Henning said the district is finding there is very limited – if any- coronavirus spread in the schools. Rather, students and staff are coming into contact with family members who have the virus as opposed to being exposed from their classmates or district staff.

The district has done its own contact tracing overseen by district nurse Sarah Borchert with students and staff who may have been exposed to a student or district staff member who tests positive for coronavirus.

“The county has been overwhelmed and, for lack of a better term, has given up on the contact tracing,” the superintendent said. “They are doing the best they can but most days, we’re still very much on top of it and I feel like that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful and we’re able to get that case out of the building and anyone else who has been exposed to that case, and we can get it out of the building pretty quick.”

“I think our (instruction) model is serving us well and people have put in a lot of hard work to make this go on a daily basis,” he said, this includes the school nurse, secretaries, administrators, teachers, support staff, food service and custodians. “Everybody is just doing their part and when somebody gets sick or somebody gets quarantined, or somebody’s daycare is closed so they have to stay home – everybody else pitches in and covers for that person.”

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