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 tax rates 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.
Updates & Upcoming Events
District Reaches Purchase Agreement for 2nd Elementary School Site
February 16, 2021
The Waverly-Shell Rock School District has reached a purchase agreement for a second elementary school site in Waverly if the March 2 bond issue is approved.
The property is located on the city’s northeast side along Horton Road, just south of St. Mary's Catholic Church and across from the Hind's addition.
If the $31 million bond issue is approved, the district would build a new elementary school at this site, as well as a new elementary school on a portion of the Champions Ridge property on the southwest side of Waverly. The district would also make key facility improvements to the existing Shell Rock Elementary School and WSR High School.
In conducting the site selection work, the district and board have reviewed numerous factors, including road access and potential traffic concerns.
School Board Approves Plan to Address District Facilities Needs
December 18, 2020
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.
The board plans to focus on land acquisition in an effort to identify where two new elementary schools could be built in Waverly.
Video from our community engagement meeting of February 10, 2021:
Survey & Facilities Task Force
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
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.
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 tax rates 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 rate impact of each potential solution. The board remains very sensitive to the need for efficiency and reducing costs as much as possible.
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 rate 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.
There is some uncertainty in the building market right now. How would that affect this project?
Current market conditions would likely have little to no impact on the project, as the work would not be bid until early 2022. This is a time of year that is historically the most competitive when it comes to bidding.
Will there be preliminary sketches of the proposed new elementary schools before the vote?
The planning documents show a conceptual building layout. Schematic design will follow an established process of space programming, and detailed needs discovery with teachers, staff, and others. The design would be developed in collaboration with students, staff and the community.
What are the priorities for improvements at the high school?
Mechanical systems, to include air conditioning, would be a top priority.
ICAT/Estes Assessment identified:
Update code deficiencies and energy compliance: ADA compliance, sprinkler and fire alarm updates, LED lighting.
The idea is to tie this work to Learning Environments so deficiencies and modernization happens simultaneously. We don’t want to tear things up twice.
Has the district identified sites for the proposed new elementary schools and if so, where?
Yes. One is on the southwest side of Waverly on property that was called “Champions Ridge.” It’s located just west of the CUNA Mutual property. The second site is on the northeast side of Waverly, on property along Horton Road, just south of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Did the district examine the topographic layout of the sites and would any extra work needed add to the cost of the project?
Yes, the topography was one of the considerations. Additional considerations were road access and impact on traffic, access to utilities, potential growth. The costs have been considered in addressing site grading of sites that are not wide and flat.
Would the district build the two new schools simultaneously?
The timing of building has not been determined, but will depend on when funding is available. The schools could be built simultaneously if desired.
If voters approve, what are the next steps after March 2? When would the bidding process begin?
If the voters approve the referendum, the design phase would soon start with discovery and schematic design. The earliest any of the projects could be bid would be early 2022. It will depend on when funding is available.
If the bond issue doesn't pass, will the future plans change?
That will be up to the community and the school board to decide. It’s likely that if it doesn’t pass that there will be an effort made to determine why. It could be that there simply isn’t support for the recommendation, it could be that there were shortcomings in the messaging, or any manner of other reasons. Finding out why would help provide a direction for future plans.
How does the school district currently use SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) dollars? How is the one-cent statewide sales tax spent in our schools?
These are spent in a variety of ways, ranging from replacing roofs to paying for copier leases. There is also a revenue bond currently in place that will be paid off in FY22.
Would additional staffing be required for two new buildings?
It’s likely that we don’t need any additional staff, but that could change if enrollment continues to increase.
Would the current plans allow for future growth beyond 5 to 10 years?
The conceptual plans are sized with a growth factor. As the plans develop, the district will evaluate how best to plan for future growth. Options include planning for extended classroom wings or adding wings. There may be other options that are considered as detailed plans are developed.
How underserved is the preschool population in Waverly?
What we know is that we have more students enroll in kindergarten than what are enrolled in preschool. That does not mean, necessarily, that there is an unmet need. We also know that one of our current community preschool partners will not be providing that service after this year.
With both proposed sites for elementary schools in more rural locations, will the district provide bussing for all students?
Yes, that will likely be necessary.
Why build two elementary schools and not just one?
This was something that the task force spent considerable time with. Ultimately, feedback from the community via surveys and communications during open forums indicated that there was greater interest in two schools rather than on quite large buildings.
Is the land south of the Middle School and 10th Ave. SW available to build an elementary school?
That property is not currently listed for sale. In addition, another school nearby would only add to the considerable congestion that is present due to the middle and high schools.
Will the new school to the southwest of Waverly have an entrance off of Highway 3? If so, what are the state DOT requirements?
We are evaluating options on how the property would be accessed. If it is off of Highway 3, we are aware that there would be DOT requirements.
Would the new locations of the elementary schools mean that no elementary child would walk to school?
One of the challenges in finding properties large enough to meet our needs is that they are naturally on the edges of our community. As such, it makes it more difficult for students to walk to school. We know that less than 10% of Waverly elementary students walk or ride their bike to school, and we know that there will very likely be a need to transport these students.
Where can I vote March 2?
Residents of Bremer and Black Hawk Counties can vote in person on March 2, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at any of these polling locations:
Janesville Riviera Roose Community Center (307 Maple St., Janesville)
Bremer County Secondary Roads (1995 Euclid Ave., Waverly)
Waverly City Hall (200 1st St NE, Waverly)
Redeemer Lutheran Church (2001 W Bremer Ave., Waverly)
Below are the designated voting precincts for residents of Butler County:
6-SR Precinct (303 South Cherry Street, Shell Rock)
2-CL Precinct (102 East Greene Street, Clarksville)
Why now? Why is there a sense of urgency to do this project now?
There are multiple factors. We have exceeded our capacity. Interest rates remain extremely low. With the retirement of the middle school bond, we are able to address significant needs without an increase to the property tax rate.
Questions? Contact Us:
View the recording of our February 25 public information session: