The Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District has significant facility needs that require the attention of our entire community to address.
In recent years, enrollment in grades K-4 increased by 21%, leading to an average class size of 20-26 at our earliest grade levels. Our K-4 grades have exceeded their capacity by 20-30 seats per grade.
Our facilities are also aging. WSR’s four elementary schools and high school all have portions of their buildings that are nearing the end of their usable lifespan if they do not receive significant investments. Five of the six buildings in the district are nearing 70 years old in certain areas.
The district and board aim to keep property taxes as low as possible in our community. We are working to balance the needs of our students and schools with those of our community members. We look to make the most of every dollar community members invest in their local schools.
The district and board are engaging the community to find the best-possible solutions to the facilities and capacity challenges we face. In a recent community-wide survey, district residents indicated that providing a high-quality educational experience is the most important factor to consider when it comes to addressing the district’s facility needs.
We have been working with a Task Force made up of community members from Waverly and Shell Rock to discuss the facilities challenges and review potential solutions.
Here's a list of those participating in the Task Force:
We have hosted virtual information sessions to share presentations and give community members an opportunity to learn more about our facilities needs. The following is the information we shared for those who could not attend via Zoom:
Part I: Where Are We At?
Part II: Where Do We Want to Be?
Part III: How Do We Get There?
Download the 2020 Facilities Master Plan
Task Force Recommendations
The WSR Facilities Task Force closely examined the district's needs and considered five proposed options (A, B, C, D and E). Through a series of meetings, the task force narrowed its recommended solutions to two: Options C and E. The task force presented these options to the Board of Education on December 17, 2020:
Board of Education Plan
School Board Approves Plan to Address District Facilities Needs
At its meeting on Thursday, December 17, the WSR School Board voted 5-0 to approve a motion to address the district’s facilities needs.
The approved plan is one of the options presented by the WSR Facilities Task Force. It would include renovating Shell Rock Elementary, updating the high school, and building two new elementary schools in Waverly. The project would require voter approval through a bond issue question.
The plan would maintain a district presence in Shell Rock while improving efficiency and accommodating for future growth.
Next, the board will determine when to place a bond issue on the ballot for the community’s consideration. The next possible date for a vote is March 2.
Before that, the board plans to focus on land acquisition in an effort to identify where two new elementary schools could be built in Waverly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding Waverly-Shell Rock’s facility needs and potential solutions to those needs. If you have a question not addressed here, please do not hesitate to contact us.
What are the district’s needs?
The Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District has a number of space and facility needs, many of which are connected to recent growth in our community. In recent years, enrollment in grades K-4 increased by 21%, leading to an average class size of 20-26 at our earliest grade levels. Our K-4 grades have exceeded their capacity by 20-30 seats per grade.
As a result, space is at a premium throughout our schools. Three of our four elementary schools are well below the regional average in terms of square foot per student. While the regional average is 160 square feet per K-4 student, WSR's elementary schools have 133 square foot per student.
Additionally, a recent analysis found that WSR's elementary schools are now 38% over capacity.
The district has had to turn to portables for use as temporary classrooms. While our students, teachers and staff are making the most out of the situation, portables do not represent a feasible long-term solution for our schools.
Our facilities are also aging, with four elementary schools and the high school all having portions of their buildings nearing the end of their usable lifespan if they do not receive significant investments. Five of the six buildings in the district are nearing 70 years old in certain areas.
What would happen if these needs are not addressed?
If left unaddressed, the space and facilities challenges the district is currently facing could threaten the outstanding schools our community members have come to expect.
In some of our buildings, shared spaces that allow for collaboration and modern learning opportunities are non-existent. This places our students at a significant disadvantage throughout their K-12 careers. We believe the time has come to address these needs to ensure our students continue to have access to a high-quality educational experience.
Why are portable classrooms not a good long-term solution for the school district?
As a short-term solution, the district has been using portable classrooms to address its capacity needs. In addition to being a poor long-term option when it comes to providing a positive learning environment, these portables are less safe than a conventional school building.
Students must move between the portables and the regular building, leading to security concerns and a less-than-ideal situation in the cold winter months. Additionally, there are no restrooms in these temporary structures.
We believe we must find better long-term solutions that allow us to maintain the quality and vibrancy we are fortunate to have in the Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District.
Will community members get to vote on the proposed solution to the district's facilities needs?
While it remains possible that the school board could place a bond question on the ballot in the future, the board has not yet decided to do so. For now, the board and district administration are engaged in a process to examine the district’s most critical needs, develop potential solutions to those needs and work with the community to prioritize those solutions.
How is the district and board working to engage the community on these issues?
The district and board are engaging the community to find the best possible solutions to the facilities and capacity challenges we face. In a recent community-wide survey, district residents indicated that providing a high-quality educational experience is the most important factor to consider when it comes to addressing Waverly-Shell Rock's facility needs.
Over the past several months, a community-driven task force has been hard at work to examine the district’s most pressing needs, prioritizing those needs, and developing potential solutions. There will also be future community engagement sessions for you to share your thoughts.
The district and board will continue to seek the input and feedback of community members throughout the process. By working together, we can find the best possible solutions to the challenges ahead of us.
Is the board considering the needs of local taxpayers?
The district and board aim to keep property taxes as low as possible in our community. To that end, the board is committed to finding a solution to the district’s challenges and to do so in a way that protects the integrity of our schools while seeking to find long-term sustainability.
As the board considers various options, we are prioritizing the potential cost and tax impact of each potential solution. The board remains very sensitive to the need for efficiency and reducing costs as much as possible.
What are the details of the renovations that would take place at the high school for the Variety, More Together and New Standard options? Is air conditioning included in all three options?
Although the scope of the high school renovations is not completely defined in any of the options, the Variety and More Together options would address needed HVAC upgrades to provide air conditioning in the school.
Under the New Standard option, the implementation of AC would depend on the cost of the elementary school project and whether enough room in the budget would be available.
Overall, HVAC upgrades have been identified as a top priority at the high school.
What's the timeline for a board decision and a potential vote?
The Task Force will present their preferred option or options to the school board on December 17, 2020. A board decision would need to be made in January to meet requirements for a March 2021 bond vote. The timeline for the design and construction is dependent on the option the board chooses.
According to Iowa state statute, there are now limited opportunities to place a referendum before the public. Moving forward, the WSR School Board would only be able to do so in March, September, or November. Additionally, if a vote fails, state law calls for at least six months to pass before another election can take place.
Because of the dates that are set in place by law, a measure that does not pass in March could be put to the voters once again in September or November. However, if we put off a vote until September 2021, a full six months will not expire before the following March date. As a result, we would need to wait until September 2022 for a second vote.
There are also potential complications with a September or November vote that would impact construction timelines.
In the meantime, enrollment in WSR elementary schools continues to increase. All our classrooms are occupied, which would create challenges if we needed to add sections. Putting off a solution for another year or two has the potential of worsening the district’s space and capacity issues.
Can Waverly students be bussed to Shell Rock to help fill that school? What would that process look like?
While busing students in this way would technically be possible, there are several challenges to this concept. For example, Shell Rock begins and ends classes before the Waverly elementary buildings do, primarily to coordinate transportation. This would mean running one or more bus routes over the same territory that might have another bus picking up students in grades 5-12, resulting in inefficiencies.
In addition, we currently do not have enough bus drivers (and perhaps buses) to be able to pick up students in Waverly to transport to Shell Rock. This has been an ongoing challenge in recent years.
What is the plan to repurpose or sell elementary buildings that would no longer be in use?
There may be some interest in the buildings, but that interest has been little more than speculation. We do believe there is an unmet need for preschool, and one of the existing buildings could be used for that purpose. There could be other ways in which we could take advantage of those buildings—something the district and board could consider moving forward.
Is there data that draws a connection between the size of an elementary building and overall student achievement?
There is significant research on this concept, and some of it is conflicting due to the many factors affecting student achievement. There are many advantages of small schools, which might be generally described as an improved school culture. It is generally accepted that small settings of students provide the most impact on success.
However, it is also generally accepted that larger schools provide more resources and curriculum options for students. They can also offer operational efficiencies up to a certain size. Most modern schools accept these realities and build schools within schools or small learning communities that are clustered together to gain the best of both options.
The bottom line is that when students are part of a small learning community that provides a personalized environment for teaching and learning, they are more successful.
How is it possible that the proposed solutions are tax neutral?
The district’s current general obligation debt outstanding is set to be levied at $2.70 per tax year, based on prior voter approval for previous projects and debt obligations. Through refinancing for interest savings, the district was able to shorten up the final maturity of that existing debt to June 1, 2023.
If the Board of Education chose to have a referendum on new general obligation bonds, it could choose the maximum levy amount to be $2.70 for the projects in question. This would result, once the debt is issued and the prior debt is paid off, as a neutral debt service levy.
What would be the school tax levy per $1,000, once the other bond is paid off, if no options are selected?
The district’s current property tax levy would be able to be reduced by $2.70 after June 1, 2023. This would be the time at which the existing debt would be paid in full. If no other projects were approved by referendum, this reduction in the debt service levy would occur.
The district also has the option of financing projects with a state-wide school sales tax, known as SAVE. Following a public hearing, the school infrastructure sales, service and use tax revenue bonds could be issued and paid solely with the school sales tax dollars. This sales tax revenue bond would not increase property taxes.
The district may also issue PPEL bonds against the voter-approved PPEL. The board-approved PPEL property tax cannot be used to pay the debt, however. Only the voter approved PPEL may be used for debt repayment.
Questions? Contact Us:
Below is a petition to call for a special bond vote to address facilities needs. If you would like to sign it, you can download and print the attachment and deliver it to the Business Office, at 1415 4th Ave SW, by January 14.