More questions asked in regard to Waterville Elementary School; board work session planned for Thursday

Constituents of the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) have continued to ask questions of the district's board of directors in regard to the board's consideration of the future of Waterville Elementary School. The ACSD Board of Directors is scheduled to ultimately make a decision on the future of the school at its Monday, December 18 regular board meeting.

The board has also scheduled a pair of work sessions prior to that December 18 regular meeting, each of those work sessions being scheduled for other purposes needing to be addressed by the board but also offering the opportunity for board members to further discuss any Waterville Elementary considerations. Those work sessions have been scheduled for this Thursday, November 30 and again Tuesday, December 12, both starting at 7 a.m. and both being held in the board room in the school district's administrative office area accessible through the Waukon Middle School front entrance.

The board is not scheduled to make any decisions in regard to the future of Waterville Elementary at these work sessions, as they are held primarily for discussion purposes. Likewise, although board work sessions are open to the public, there is no formal agenda item offering public comment opportunities at any such work sessions.

Additional questions that have been asked of, and answered by, the ACSD Board of Directors in regard to its consideration of the future of Waterville Elementary are printed below and continued to an additional page inside this week's issue of The Standard as indicated. These questions and answers are in addition to the initial question and answer series printed in The Standard's November 8 edition prior to the board's November 13 public forum regarding Waterville Elementary School. These questions and answers have also been uploaded to the school district's website at

How much State or Federal financial aid does the school district receive per student? Is it $6,500 or more? If any Waterville students open-enroll to MFL-MarMac or Eastern Allamakee, it seems Allamakee Community Schools will lose valuable funding?
The district receives $6,746 per student for State Aid. If a student enrolls (open enroll out or move) to another school, we lose the funding for that student. If a number of students open enroll out or move, we would need to adjust the staff for such a loss. This would be completed by attrition (not replacing those that retire or move to another district).

What will be the student to teacher ratio at the West Elementary and at the East Elementary, using the schools enrollment projections?
Based on the enrollment projections for the 2018-2019 school year and the current staffing assignments, the number of students in K-2 would be between 14-18 students (an average of 16 students) per section and between 18-21 students (an average of 19 students) per section in grades 3-5.

It was mentioned about the tuckpointing, electrical concerns, boiler system and roofing concerns. Would it have been possible to do some electrical work and roofing concerns a little each year so it would not have reached this level of importance and cost? Do the buildings have a five-, 10- and 20-year plan of action?
Every year the school district plans certain projects to be completed based on need and the funds available. Due to the uncertainty of State Aid for schools, it is difficult to have a five- to 20-year maintenance program in place. We do our best to prioritize projects with the current information and funds available.

Prior to 2016-2017, how much of the PPEL and SAVE funds were spent at Waterville compared to the overall total? I understand it was $120,000, 7% of $1.75 million in 2016-17.
Over the past three years (2014-2015 through 2016-2017) the portion of the combined PPEL and SAVE funds spent at Waterville (after districtwide allocations) was approximately $343,000 (6.5%) of the $5.3 million spent overall.

Has the school district checked on pricing to do the necessary electrical work? It might be a good idea to get quotes from a commercial electrical contractor and not just a local electrician?
The school district cannot even put a cap on the amount of money it would cost to bring the building up to electrical code. In order to get quotes on a project of this size, it would take an architect to draw up plans. At that point, the bidding would be open to anyone willing to take on a project of this size.

Has the school district checked on pricing to do the necessary tuckpointing?
Yes, the district has contacted a very reputable tuckpointing company and received a quote of $77,000 for the tuckpointing needed at Waterville Elementary. This is an approximate quote, not a formal bid. If we determined to move forward with this project, a formal bidding process would take place.

Has the school district checked on pricing for repairs or replacement of the boiler system?
At this point, we have no figures on boiler costs. Currently, preventative maintenance is being done on the boilers in the fall to keep longevity of the boiler system. In the summer, the boilers are tore completely down to be serviced and checked for wear.

Has the school district checked on pricing for roofing issues? The gym roof looks really nice - how much did that cost and what fund(s) did it come from? The same fund as the approximately $1,000,000 auditorium and East Elementary roofing projects?
We have not obtained costs for replacing the rubber roof membrane. We are currently doing a preventative maintenance program on the rubber roof. This program consists of a contractor doing periodic checks of the roof and making repairs deemed necessary. The roof on the Waterville gym was replaced in the spring of 2017. It cost approximately $43,000 and was paid through the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) Fund. The other approximately $1,000,000 roofing project that took place this past year was on the Middle School and West Elementary. This project is paid through the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) Fund (aka the local option sales and services tax).

It seems that the unsatisfactory results (of the water samples) take place during the summer months when there is no regular school in session. I think this would have to be a flag for the board that limited use of water tends to lead to unsatisfactory results. When school starts in August there is considerable water usage and it returns to satisfactory results in a reasonable time period. Has the school district checked with the fire department or local residents to compare water testing results?
No, the district has not checked with the fire department or other residents in the area. There are three types of public water supplies (with the classification determined by the population the system serves). The public water supply at Waterville Elementary is considered Non-transient non-community (NTNC). NTNC public water supplies are those that regularly serve at least 25 of the same people, four or more hours per day, four or more days per week, for at least six months during the year. The residents and fire department do not have to meet these strict guidelines and/or do not have a Grade A operator certification.

Has the school district checked on the cost of a chlorination system?
We have researched what it would cost to get a chlorination system in the building; however, the school district cannot just put in a system. Once the school has enough positive samples for bacteria, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mandates what type of system would be necessary and how we would have to implement the system. It is possible the cost of the system could exceed $10,000 to $15,000. In addition, if our current location for a chlorination system like this does not meet the DNR’s standards, we may have to build a room somewhere near the boiler room to house such a system.

Has the school district checked with the company that drilled the well to see if there is any testing they can do to see if there is a leak in the well casing or something else that might be allowing the summer bacteria to infiltrate the school? Do they offer an opinion on why the unsatisfactory results happen more often in the summer months during times of low water use?
We have been in contact with the company that drilled the well as issues arose over the past two summers. In both instances, they have said the amount of water not being used may be a reason bacteria is more concentrated and is showing up in monthly tests. That is why we are offering Culligan water. Last summer the well company did find a cracked pipe that we did hope would solve any problems. Unfortunately, it did not solve any long-term problems.

What have been the monthly water sample readings for the past two years that were required by the DNR? (Parts per million ppm.)
The routine bacterial tests that are done on the Waterville well do not give results in ppm, the results are either present or absent for certain bacteria. Only if the results show that either E.coli or coliform are present do we request additional testing (at an additional cost) to determine to what extent the bacteria are present.

How much money has been spent on trying to bring the well at the Waterville Elementary into DNR compliance in the last five years?
Prior to FY17, the district spent, on average, $575/year on monthly testing of the well at Waterville Elementary. In FY17, the district spent approximately $1,200 on testing because of the additional testing needed due to the abnormal results of the regular tests. The district has spent approximately $750 on testing this year-to-date. Also due to the abnormal results, the district spent $2,700 on repairs to the well in FY17 (none in the five years prior to that) and has spent $500 this year-to-date.

Is the school district hoping to reduce the Allamakee Community Schools county property tax levy and/or the PPEL and SAVE requirements?
If the school closes, any savings will be put toward maintaining our current staff and programs. State aid for schools has been very poor the past three years awarding schools only an average of 1.53% for state supplemental aid yearly. This legislative session looks even bleaker for schools and it could result in 1% state supplemental aid or less for schools. In addition, technology, college, and career and technical education programs costs continue to rise. Therefore, we do not anticipate a reduction in the property tax levy.

What is the projected savings to the taxpayers in the first year if the Waterville Elementary is closed?
If the school closes, any savings will be put toward maintaining our current staff and programs. State aid for schools has been very poor the past three years awarding schools only an average of 1.53% for state supplemental aid yearly. This legislative session looks even bleaker for schools and it could result in 1% state supplemental aid or less for schools. In addition, technology, college, and career and technical education programs costs continue to rise. Therefore, we do not anticipate there to be a direct savings to the taxpayer in the first year.

What is the cost of insuring the Waterville Elementary in the current 2017- 2018 school year?
The property insurance is a blanket coverage based on replacement cost. Therefore, the pro-rated amount attributable to the property at Waterville Elementary is approximately $7,000 for the 2017-2018 school year.

On the financial information sheet, could you briefly explain for 2017-18:
- Purch. Service
- Other services
- Supplies & software seem high compared to East and West? Only about $8k less than East?
- Equipment again seems high compared with East and West?
- Dues & fees.

The majority of the expenses included in categories are as follows:
- Purch. Service: Assessment Testing, Staff Workshops/Registration Fees
- Other Services: Copier/Printer Leases
- Dues & Fees: Student Entry Fees (Fieldtrips)
- Supplies/Software and Equipment are areas that fluctuate from year to year, depending on needs. The projections in the Waterville report are based on the most current data (FY17 actual expenditures). The assumptions used in the projections were to increase salaries and benefits by 3.5% (two-year contract settlement) and no change for all other expenses.
In looking through the detail, it appears FY17 was a lower spending year for East and West Elementary in these areas (supplies/software and equipment). However, if we use a prior year’s expenses (FY15 for example) for our projections, then the projected cost per pupil only changes slightly (Waterville decreases by about $85 per pupil in FY18 and by about $100 per pupil in FY19).

I would like a breakdown of salaries and benefits by person that will total $589,755. If it includes the band teacher, the guidance counselor, the PE teacher, the art teacher and so on, please include the percentage of their compensation that would pertain to Waterville vs. the other centers.

Position Salary & Benefits
Principal 43,500
Secretary 34,300
Para Professional 15,700
Para Professional 15,700
Para Professional 15,700
Regular Education Teacher 71,800
Regular Education Teacher 71,800
Regular Education Teacher 71,800
Regular Education Teacher 71,800
Title 1/SPED Teacher (.7 FTE) 44,200

Art/TAG Teacher (33% WV, 33% West, 34% East)


SPED Teacherv(25% WV, 75% MS)


PE Teacher (20% WV, 80% East)


Music Teacher (25% WV, 30% East, 30% West, 15% MS)


Band Teacher (20% WV, 80% MS)


Guidance Counselor (25% WV, 50% East, 25% West)


Librarian (10% WV, 40% HS, 30% MS, 10% East, 10% West)

Substitutes 20,400
After School Program Site Coordinator 25,300

It is hard to argue with the facts (of the salary break-down) except maybe the percentage allocated to Waterville should be pro-rated by the number of students as compared with the total enrollment?
The percentage of the special class teachers (art, band, etc.) that is allocated to Waterville is based on the amount of time that teacher spends there, not on the enrollment. The rationale for that allocation is that a teacher has to spend just as much time in travel and classroom time for five students as they would for 20 students.

How many of the personnel in Waterville are not offered health insurance and/or can only work 28.75 hours per week? How many employees in the entire district are not eligible and/or not offered health insurance benefits?
There are 64 contracted employees in the entire district that do not qualify for health insurance, three of whom are Waterville personnel.

Why is there a bus shuttle to return bus drivers to Waukon? I would think a person hired to drive bus would be personally responsible to get to and from their job on their own time and at their personal expense but maybe not? Maybe there is no one close to Waterville to drive bus?
We do not have any extra drivers in that area that can drive every day. The buses need to come back to Waukon for maintenance/cleaning and fuel some days anyway. If the buses were sitting in Waterville, we would have to drive to Waterville to pick up the bus, drive back to Waukon, do the maintenance, drive it back to Waterville and then drive back to Waukon. Therefore, we rotate buses coming back each day.

I understand the after school program has been funded for Waterville for next year. I am not familiar with all the details but I assume if Waterville closes, Harpers Ferry and Waterville parents will be required to drive to Waukon to pick up their children from East and West in order to take advantage of the program?
That is incorrect; the After School Program for Waterville has NOT been funded for next year. The After School Program is funded with federal grants that are awarded every three to five years. The Waterville program is on year five of a five-year grant this school year. We are currently writing the application for a new grant at Waterville. If we are awarded the grant and Waterville closes, the State has assured us that those funds would follow the students. If Waterville closes, the plan would be to hold the elementary After School Programs in Waukon and transportation is not provided.

If Waterville Elementary is closed, what will happen to all of the desks, tables, electronic equipment, cooking equipment, etc. ?
The Board of Education will need to determine what is to be done with the equipment if Waterville Elementary closes.

Regarding the reply to the question about number of special bus trips charged to Waterville Elementary, one of the points the writer was trying to make - that seems to be overlooked in the response - is that not all of the trips were paid for by the school district. Indeed, some of the trips were sponsored (paid for) by outside groups such as Parents for Progress.
The Parents for Progress group is a great organization that donates hundreds of dollars a year to help fund projects and events for the Waterville Elementary students. Over the past three years, the Parents for Progress group has directly paid for the transportation of one to two of these trips a year.

How would the cost per pupil numbers look if Waterville had been allowed to keep its sixth graders?
Based on projected enrollments and expenses, if there was still sixth grade in both Waterville and East Elementary, the 2018-19 cost per student would be about $5,300/student at East Elementary and $9,300/student at Waterville Elementary.

Is there a certain number of students needed to make Waterville Elementary viable?
There are several factors being considered in making this decision. Although there is not a definitive number that would determine whether or not the school stays open, at the projected costs, in order to have a per student cost that is in-line with the other two elementary buildings, the enrollment for the 2018-19 school year would have to be between 80-90 students at Waterville Elementary.

It seems that there are several families that live within the Waterville boundaries, but attend either East or West Elementary, specifically a large family that lives on Cardinal Road. Why have they been allowed to do so?
There are currently no students in the district with an address on Cardinal Road. In addition, our buses do not pick up any students on Cardinal Road. If a family lives within the Waterville Elementary boundaries but uses a different address on school records and does not ride a bus to/from school, we have no way of knowing. The Allamakee Community School District is one of the largest districts in the state in terms of transportation miles/routes and we do our best to ensure the safety of all students and abide by the district boundaries.

Is there a reason the decision has to be made in December?
The timeline set by the board was selected in order to allow time for transition planning and budgeting for the next school year, if the decision is to close the building.

How would the salary and benefits projections for Waterville change if the elementary principal was shared and the cost analysis used average salaries instead of actual?
Below is a breakdown of how the projected salary and benefits would look for Waterville Elementary if the principal position was shared between all three elementary buildings and district-wide averages were used for all positions. The total of $609,300 is approximately $19,600 higher than if actual salaries are used. This difference is mostly due to two factors: 1) The majority of the Waterville Elementary teachers’ salaries are actually below the district-wide average; and 2) The current principal at Waterville Elementary spends a portion of her day (.7) teaching Title I/SPED classes. Therefore, an additional teacher would need to be added if the principal position is shared. If this additional position did not have to be added, the total would be about $565,100 (which is $24,600 less than the current projections using actual salaries/benefits and would decrease the Waterville cost per pupil to approximately $9,500/student).

Position Salary & Benefits
Principal 94,400
Secretary 27,500
Para Professional 18,900
Para Professional 15,000
Para Professional 17,200
Regular Education Teacher 49,800
Regular Education Teacher 77,800
Regular Education Teacher 55,900
Regular Education Teacher 73,200

Art/TAG Teacher (33% WV, 33% West, 34% East)


SPED Teacher (25% WV, 75% MS)


PE Teacher (20% WV, 80% East)


Music Teacher (25% WV, 30% East, 30% West, 15% MS)


Band Teacher (20% WV, 80% MS)


Guidance Counselor (25% WV, 50% East, 25% West)


Librarian (10% WV, 40% HS, 30% MS, 10% East, 10% West)

Substitutes 17,500
After School Program Site Coordinator 23,000

In the packet, I see we spent $43k to replace the gym roof in Waterville this spring. Is there a reason those funds were not prioritized to fix the drinking water or electrical issues first?
When prioritizing, we thought of doing the water or electrical first. Ultimately, the decision was made that before we worry about the water and electrical, we must first maintain the structure of the building. The shingles were in poor shape to the point of leaking into the gym. We had several areas in the gym that had water on the floor, which could cause the floor to buckle and create a larger expense to the school or even worse, we could have lost the gym floor completely. As you know, water and electrical do not mix, and before we could work with the electrical, we had to make sure the building was watertight. If we start tearing into any wiring deficiencies before the building is watertight, we could again cause major problems to an already serious problem. At the time the roof was complete, the water was not a serious issue.

Are the PPEL funds something we can apply for annually or was this a one-time grant? Is this something we can apply for again and use for the necessary repairs? Are there other possible grants for these type of repairs we could apply for?
The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is an ‘annually’ certified levy in amount up to .33 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. We also have a voter-approved PPEL levy ($1.10). The amount raised through this voter-approved levy is a combination of property taxes and income surtax. The voter approved PPEL levy is for a maximum of ten years. The current PPEL levy is in place until 2021. If this levy is to be renewed, it will need to come before a vote of the district constituents before that time.
The Harkin grant was one grant we utilized for repairs and school construction in the past. This grant is no longer available. There are no other grants available for these types of repairs at this time.

If we did any type of fundraising activity, would those funds go directly to Waterville or would we only get "our portion"?
Any fundraiser, approved by the board, would have to declare what the funds would be used for in the application for the fundraiser. If it specifically stated these funds were to be used for Waterville Elementary, they would be used for that building and purpose stated in the fundraising application.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet