Next month, voters who live in the Waterloo Schools' boundary will be asked to approve a $47 million funding plan for a proposed career technical education center and high school renovations.

Three town hall meetings are being held at various locations this week to give residents a chance to learn specific details about the special election that's taking place on Feb. 2, 2016.

It's important that residents -- whether for or against the measure -- get their questions answered before they make a final decision at the polls. In the video below, Waterloo Schools Superintendent Dr. Jane Lindaman answers some important questions about the upcoming special election and explains what a "Yes" vote means to the community.

Below the video are 10 frequently asked questions about the referendum, along with information provided by the Waterloo Community School District. The information is being published to help residents make an informed decision on the future of local education. For more detailed information about each topic, click on the corresponding question.


Interview with Waterloo Schools Superintendent Dr. Jane Lindaman

YouTube Images Courtesy of Waterloo School District


TOP 10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

1. What is being recommended for Waterloo's high schools?

After several years of study, a task force of students, parents, staff, and community/business members recommends that Waterloo Schools expands our career and technical education offerings so students can explore career interest areas while in high school. These courses are proven to greatly engage student in content while allowing them to work toward an area of certification and better prepare them for life after high school.

2. Why are you pursuing technical education?

Our district is pursuing technical education because a one-size-fits-all approach to students is not appropriate for education in the 21st century. Career training in high school can be a springboard to move students into college or the workforce. We are also pursuing it because technical education has been proven across the nation to help keep kids in school through graduation and better prepare them for their future.

3. What is the cost of this initiative?

The proposed cost of this initiative is $47 million, with $35 million needed to build the proposed career center and $6 million at both East and West for needed renovations. However, the task force received much feedback from our community urging us to explore funding options. After much investigation and feedback, the recommendation includes a unique funding structure that is property tax neutral.

4. What is the unique funding structure being used to fund this project?

After much feedback, the task force is recommending that we pursue an income surtax to offset property taxes needed to fund this project. While the project will be funded through general obligation bonds repaid by property taxes, any increase would be offset by funding the instructional support levy with an income surtax instead of funding through property tax like it is now. In other words, we can fund this project at the current property tax rate if we shift the instructional support levy dollars to being funded by an income surtax, which frees up existing property tax dollars to be used to fund this initiative.

5. Will they get to “try out” a variety of technical programs before they make their choice?

Yes. Students will get opportunities to try out various technical programs to determine if it's a path they wish to choose. (Remember, students can opt to follow a more traditional sequence of courses if they are not interested in concentrating in a particular career area.) Middle school students also get to try out various technical programs through modules. A module is a student-directed curriculum that uses multimedia software and hands-on equipment to introduce career and post-secondary options. As freshmen, they will have opportunities to visit the career center and try out various programs.

6. How is this new center any different from Bunger School of Technology which was closed after one year?

It is absolutely unfortunate that Bunger School of Technology closed so shortly after its inception in 1995. It was a proven program that was strongly supported by the students who attended the program and their parents. The school closed for financial reasons. The current committee working on High School Reform paid special attention to operational costs and long-term sustainability to ensure that type of situation never occurs again.

7. How will this initiative impact high school teachers?

This initiative will impact high school teachers by changing some of the curriculum they use for career and technical classes. In addition, some career and technical education teachers may need to seek additional training to be prepared and certified to teach in their assigned area. Teachers who teach the 30 career and technical education offerings would experience a change in their school assignment by teaching at the career center rather than East, West and Expo.

8. May students change career areas or are they “locked in” after their sophomore year?

As is currently the practice, students can make changes to their schedule; however, we will work diligently to help students explore career areas and create schedules that are best suited to their interests and career plans. Students who complete a course sequence will be eligible for college credits and certification, so we'll want to help students choose wisely. Even if high school students pursue career areas and find they don't like it, it's likely helpful to rule out certain career areas before college.

9. Are we closing East and West High Schools?

No. When exploring facility options, the task force considered many facility options, one of which was the possibility of merging all high school programs under one roof. In the end, the committee DID NOT recommend that option. Instead, the committee recommended a Career Center be built to house the expanded technical education programs. Decisions about athletic programs are not included in the committee's recommendations.

10. Are universities and community colleges supportive of our initiative?

YES! Hawkeye Community College is extremely supportive of our initiative and has been from the beginning. Hawkeye's President, Dr. Linda Allen, served on the initial task force; Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jane Bradley, served on the second task force. Our programming would complement Hawkeye's programming and very likely increase their enrollment with students wishing to obtain additional skills and increase their earning potential. The University of Northern Iowa has also worked alongside us and fully supports our recommendations. We believe this collaborative approach will help make our center a regional leader in career training.

Click http://www.waterloo.k12.ia.us/cte-faq/ for the complete list of Frequently Asked Questions.

For more information, go to waterlooschools.org and click on the career & technical education link on the district's home page, call the School Talk line at 319-433-2060 or email the task force at taskforce@waterlooschools.org.