Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 26, 2018

2014-15 Washington CSD: What Lies Ahead?

By Dr. Mike Jorgensen

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up the 2013-2014 school year.   While it seemed like the winter was never going to end, it also seems amazing that we are staring at the end of the school year already.   The school district is wrapping up another successful year and looks forward to what is ahead.  I hope to highlight some of the things I believe will happen over the next year.

Facilities 2014-15
The district began a facility update plan two years ago, so 2014-15 will be the third year of that plan.  All of the buildings in the district (including central office) have been tuck pointed in the last five years, so the district will continue a rotation but should see reduced expense.  Stewart Elementary will be up for tuckpoint updates this next year.  We do have some flooring needs in Stewart, Lincoln and the Middle School that we have tried to address a few floors each year.  
The biggest news in terms of facilities for 2014-15 is the hope that we will be breaking ground for a new auditorium.  It was very encouraging to see the district rally behind a bond issue for $1.1 million.  We are awaiting word on the $1.4 million Vision Iowa grant, which would be the final piece of the puzzle to breaking ground.  We hope to know the fate of that grant in June.
Our facilities are in good shape for the short term.  There is no question that the  1918 Middle School has several long-term needs that will have to be addressed within the next decade.  The district will need to invest a large amount of money to building new, remodel old or consider sending middle school students to a facility outside of town.  I would also love to see the Lincoln Building getting a remodel similar to what we did to Stewart in the near future.   I believe that has given the Stewart Building a 40-year life extension.

Enrollment, 2014-15
We have had five consecutive years of enrollment increases.  While this growth has been modest, growth results in new money for the district.   I am unsure if this trend will continue for 2014-15.  Kindergarten enrollment for next year appears to be almost identical to anticipated graduation from 2014.   That is a simplistic indication of what to expect for enrollments, which indicate to me a flat or slightly negative enrollment figure.  The actual figure will be determined on Oct. 1st.   We are anticipating 120 kindergarteners in the district, down from 135 this last year when we had to add an extra section.   I do believe that the several discussions on multi-housing units in the district will be a positive in school enrollments in the future.  We will need a boost when we graduate very large classes currently in seventh and eighth grades.   The other positive news is that based on open enrollment request this last spring, we will close the gap even further between in and out.  What was a 66 percent-33 percent split four years ago is about 55 percent-45 percent now and the gap has grown closer every year.

Tax Rates, 2014-2015
The district has seen five consecutive years of reduced taxes from the school.  Even with the passage of a $1.1 million bond issue, the tax rate of $14.45 is 19 cents less than the previous year of $14.64.  It also is $3.01 less than the rate of $17.46 in 2010.   The good news is that I don’t anticipate the tax rate increasing in the near future, and it possibly will continue to decline, slowly.   You won’t see a big drop but I also don’t anticipate an increase.

Initiatives, 2014-15
Probably the most notable initiative for the this next year will be the implementation of 1:1 computers at the Middle School using the Google Chromebooks.  This follows a very successful two years of 1:1 laptops at the high school.  The second year was even better at the high school than the first year and we believe is the way of the future.  We have worked hard on developing a technology budget that will provide sustainability and continuity to the 1:1 program in the future.
The opening of the Kirkwood Regional Center will also expand opportunities for our students.   While we made the crossover to concurrent credit about four years ago, we will see even more widespread use of college credit by high school students when the regional center opens.   Students will have the opportunity to earn an AA degree while in high school.   This will result in tremendous cost savings to parents and more exposure to post-secondary training for students.  High school students will have more opportunities for coursework than they have ever had before.

It is always nice when you see continuity of an administrative team, board members and teaching staff.  This has certainly been the case over the last four years in the district.   It leads to consistency and more focus on implementation and achievement.  The district was named a Top 100 employer in the state of Iowa for the second consecutive year, something I take a lot of pride in.  We will hear soon on whether or not we were selected for the third year.   We will continue to focus on student achievement and opportunities for our students.