CEDAR FALLS — Lowell Elementary School will spend the next year holding classes at former Central Rivers Area Education Agency facilities.
The agency’s board of directors Wednesday amended the existing lease agreement and approved another one for the coming year. The leases will come before the Waterloo Board of Education on Monday for its approval, as well.
Lowell has been using the AEA’s former conference center and special education buildings at 3706 and 3712 Cedar Heights Drive since late February. The school made the move from its building, at 1628 Washington St. in Waterloo, after heavy snow caused a portion of the roof to collapse.
Waterloo Community Schools has paid $15,000 per month for the current lease, which was scheduled to go five months through July 21.
“The amended agreement effectively decreases the contract by one month,” said Beth Strike, Central Rivers’ director of communications. The new year-long lease begins July 1 at the reduced rate of $10,000 per month.
“I think both parties just agree because this is going on longer than anticipated this is an amount that, upon further conversation, seemed to make sense for at least the next year,” she explained. “Waterloo has been a great partner for us and we realize they’re in a challenging situation.”
Waterloo Schools’ officials originally believed the damage to the building was minimal enough that it could be fixed before next fall. But the process is taking longer than expected and last month, while waiting for a final damage assessment, they announced that Lowell would continue holding classes in a temporary location for the next year. However, they still hadn’t determined if they would continue in the AEA buildings.
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Waterloo Superintendent Jane Lindaman said officials considered locations within the school district before deciding to stay there.
“We looked at multiple sites within Waterloo,” she said, noting a list of criteria was created for the four locations considered. “I really feel like we did our due diligence in attempting to find a solution.”
Lindaman noted that it would have taken “significant renovations” to make those possibilities adequate for staff and students, raising the cost of their use. “In the end it truly was our best option to stay where we are.”
The district expects to receive a report from the insurance company between June 15 and July 1 determining the extent of damage and a financial settlement. Officials say the damage could be great enough to consider building a new school.
As a result, said Lindaman, the lease with Central Rivers includes a clause to renew it for an additional 12 months. “That really gave us the additional flexibility we were seeking,” she noted.
The two AEA buildings have been for sale since the summer of 2017, when the agency moved to new offices at 1521 Technology Parkway. But Strike said the “for sale” sign will be taken down for now.
“We won’t actively pursue a buyer while it’s leased,” she said.