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WATCH NOW: $1 million state grant will help fund Waterloo Career Center expansion proposed to begin this year
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WATCH NOW: $1 million state grant will help fund Waterloo Career Center expansion proposed to begin this year

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WATERLOO — The Waterloo Career Center is getting some help from the state for a proposed expansion project expected to serve students from even more school districts.

Board of Education members Monday formally accepted a $1 million Career Academy Incentive Fund grant from the Iowa Department of Education, which was announced last week.

“The $1 million would be used for future expansion of the career center,” Jeff Frost, Waterloo Community Schools’ executive director of professional and technical education told the board.

Located at the north end of the Central Middle School building, the career center now includes 18 technical programs where high school students can earn concurrent college credit. The board will hold a public hearing March 8 on plans to construct an addition that would increase program space and be finished by the fall of 2022. For the first year, it would house Central students as the middle school is completely renovated, opening as an expansion of the career center in August 2023.

A letter from the Department of Education said the project outlined by Waterloo Schools qualifies as a priority one proposal for the incentive fund.

“What we’ve started and where we’re looking to expand is right on the mark,” said Frost.

“A significant portion of that was to enhance the regional opportunities,” said Superintendent Jane Lindaman.

Currently, seven other school districts have agreements that allow their students to take courses at the career center. Those include Cedar Falls, Dike-New Hartford, Dunkerton, Hudson, Janesville, Jesup and Union community schools. The programs are also open to three parochial high schools within the Waterloo district boundaries.

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Lindaman said she had recently talked to officials from the Aplington-Parkersburg and Denver school districts about accessing the center, as well.

“We applied for it back in June 2020,” Frost said of the grant. The district was passed over in the initial round but was one of three awardees this time – and the first school district. Other recipients have been community colleges.

He said Waterloo Schools received support for its application from Hawkeye Community College, the University of Northern Iowa, Grow Cedar Valley and the contiguous school districts. “Really, this is a collaborative effort,” Frost added.

The career center is moving from a three-block to a four-block schedule next fall, allowing it to serve more students. It already has 1,800 enrollment requests from East, West and Expo high schools for the coming year. That compares with 938 during the current year.

The board also approved an appearance before the state’s School Budget Review Committee to request $1.19 million in modified supplemental aid related to startup costs for the center over the past four years.

Michael Coughlin, chief financial officer, said the district is seeking the increased budget authority due to “unusual circumstances” of beginning new programs between 2016 and 2020. The increased authority could be funded through the 2021-22 cash reserve property tax levy. This would basically cover the first-year costs of the programs for which the district didn’t have an outside source of funding.

In other business, the board:

  • Set a March 8 public hearing on the 2021-22 school district calendar. It would include a rolling start to the school year. Kindergarten, first, sixth and ninth grades would start Aug. 23; grades two, three, seven and 10 would start Aug. 24; and grades four, five, eight, 11 and 12 would start Aug. 25.
  • Approved a $34,065 2021-22 school resource officer agreement with the city of Evansdale for Bunger Middle and Poyner Elementary schools, a $912 or 3% increase from the current year.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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