Waukee Community School District is preparing to open a second high school in 2021 with the support of staff, students, parents and community members. The following are frequently asked questions (FAQ) received from stakeholders. Please note, we will post submitted questions and answers as information is available and decisions have been made.

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Why are boundary changes necessary?

Waukee CSD continues to experience rapid enrollment growth. School boundaries have to change to populate new schools and to alleviate overcrowding at existing school buildings.

When a boundary change is necessary, what principles guide its development?

We take many factors into consideration when defining an attendance area. Since managing enrollment growth is our primary concern, we first look at:

  • building growth projections and capacity
  • feeder patterns
  • community unity (i.e., not splitting a neighborhood)
  • geographic proximity
  • frequency of change for students
  • program accommodations and student needs
  • cost-effectiveness
What's the plan for the 6-7 and 8-9 that will be over capacity? Will there be a new school for each coming on soon or has the City talked about capping it's growth until it has the infrastructure in place to handle it?

The enrollment numbers you see posted on the maps (upper right corner) for our buildings are projected numbers from RSP & Associates. The capacity number in each column is a number calculated during the initial design of the given facility (design capacity). Design capacity is the result of a mathematical formula which includes factoring room utilization at a 75% utilization rate.

  • For example, at Waukee Middle School, we operate on a eight-period per day schedule. Teachers are scheduled to teach 6/8 of those periods (or 75%). Thereby leaving some rooms vacant for two periods.
  • District and building administration have worked together with our demographers on utilization studies to predict future needs for additional facilities. Simply stated, in instances where yellow shading (upper right corner)  is noted we are reaching initial design capacity for that specific facility. We can make internal adjustments, at times building modifications, assigning a greater utilization factor for a specific building, or other adjustments.
Based on enrollment projections, how likely it is that either the K-5 or middle school feeders will change significantly again in the next 5-7 years? As a follow-up, is there one of the two recommendations that are more stable than the other based on enrollment projects due to new areas of land planned for development?

Here is what we know today (Summer 2019):

  • We have purchased land for elementary #10 (located west of Ute Avenue and north of Ashworth Road). We anticipate opening this PK-5 elementary school in the fall of 2022.
  • We are making plans for an addition on to Vince Meyer Learning Center, opening in the fall of 2021. That facility will house 20-22 preschool (PK) rooms, giving additional capacity flexibility in elementary schools that currently host preschool classrooms.
  • Our middle-level buildings are growing as well and we are starting the initial conversations to prepare for a third middle-level building. With a third middle-level building, there will come a change in building alignments with three middle-level buildings feeding to two high schools.
  • Option 1 does distribute growth evenly west, based on what we know today.
I am concerned at the significant difference in the number of students in the new high school.

The difference in projected student enrollment at the opening of the new high school in 2021 is as follows:

  • Option 1: estimated 130 student differential with fairly equal future growth
  • Option 2: estimated 480 student differential with this model allowing for larger opportunity for future growth, while opening with a smaller number of students, knowing it will increase and close the gap quickly.
Why wouldn't the district design its construction projects to anticipate nearly equal numbers of students in each high school?

Based on current enrollment projects, housing developments and four municipalities’ growth, as well as major roads used as boundaries, it is difficult to know what is and isn’t accounted for at this time and families moving in and out of our district. However, we use the information available from the cities within the Waukee CSD to determine future growth, however also understand that any significant economic changes, developments, etc. could affect student enrollment numbers.

How many free/reduced lunch students are projected to be in each feeder pattern for Option 1 and 2?
  • Option 1 (F/RL):
    • Northwest High School Feeder Pattern: 532 of a total number of students in grades 3-12 (4,540).
    • Waukee High School Feeder Pattern: 956 of a total number of students in grades 3-12 (4,089).
  • Option 2 (F/RL):
    • Northwest High School Feeder Pattern: 721 of a total number of students in grades 3-12 (3,432).
    • Waukee High School Feeder Pattern: 767 of a total number of students in grades 3-12 (5,197).
Is future demographic data being considered?

As you can imagine, this information and data collection changes weekly and is a constant moving target in such a rapidly growing district. What we are doing is keeping on pace with trends, programming, student needs, developments and ensuring our students are achieving the best education our families are accustomed to in Waukee CSD.

Seems to me that there is a heavy weight put on “Demographic Considerations” and the goal is “general similarity”! What exactly does that mean? What are the specific numbers are you comparing? Is this data accurate and up-to-date? I’m hearing that data is ten years old and not reflective of the current growth of single-family homes in both boundaries.
  • The information used to determine “Demographic Considerations” is from April 2019. The data collected is broken down by school/attendance center.
  • General similarity is providing the most balanced and similar experiences for students. In Waukee, students are our focus and any programming needs a student or school would need, we have been and will continue to provide to reach academic success for each student.
What data are you using to support your demographic considerations? What disparity level are you willing to accept to be considered “balanced”?
  • The data used is from our student information system. (PowerSchool)
  • The goal is to balance demographics, programming needs, student needs for example and other variables for a similar type of student demographics at each school. We have excellent building leaders that are always working with the administration to meet the needs of our students.
Why would Waukee CSD bus students from the southernmost part of our district (Woodland Hills) to the north high school?

We understand this would be a concern and one we recognize this as a consideration when discussing Option 2. To provide transportation from the southern part of the district to Northwest High School would be a challenge as we grow, but one we would work within the confines of our district roads and congestion should the Board vote to implement Option 2.

Will boundaries change again?
  • Yes, attendance center boundaries will change at all grade levels again within our school district boundaries. Extensive growth in the western Des Moines metropolitan area, of which our school district is comprised of many of these suburbs, over the past twenty years has resulted in continuous school building construction. With the opening of elementary #10 in the fall of 2022 we anticipate modifications to bordering elementary attendance center boundaries going into that fall. Most of those families affected by that change will be currently attending Maple Grove, Woodland Hills and Waukee Elementary.
  • As we look to add another middle-level building, the need for change will happen again.
When will the change go into effect?

Either the Fall of 2020 or the Fall of 2021. This will be part of the Board recommendation and ultimate vote on July 22.

It seems like many 'Waukee Elementary households' will be shifted to 'Elementary #10' in the 2022-23 school year. If Elementary 10 and Waukee Elementary are on different feeder paths (which seems likely with Feeder Option 1 to keep numbers balanced), would the impacted 2023 Seniors be allowed to remain at the High School they attend for their Junior year (the 2021-22 school year)?

This will be part of future discussions, and we do appreciate the consideration.

How does Option #1 incorporate the 10th elementary?

This will be part of future discussions and hasn’t been officially determined. However, to balance numbers and schools, Elementary #10 would most likely reside in the Waukee High School feeder or purple section on the map in Option 1 and Northwest Feeder or green section on Option 2.

What considerations are being made in these boundary feeder systems options for the soon to be necessary 3rd High School?

We are continually monitoring the growth of our district. At this time a third high school is a consideration and a topic of conversation. However, the actual opening of a third high school is more than 10-15 years away, so many of the current students would not be affected by that change. If growth is spurred by a development(s) and we see the need sooner, we will adjust accordingly.

When did Option 2 Map become part of the discussion with the Board? I thought the Boundary Committee recommended Option 1 and Option 3.
  • During the March 6 Board Work Session, it was apparent we had to look back at our criteria and Option 3 was to balance demographics but did not keep neighborhoods intact or duration of boundaries. It became apparent that Option 2 (east/west) should be considered and vetted.
  • From March-May our administration met with staff, including teachers, building administrations, SIAC (parents/community members), and the Board to walk through a series of exercises without actual maps in front of them as to not sway the decision making based on location.  This included; Board/BC criteria, demographic numbers, building capacity, transportation and other factors brought forth by staff. They were asked to find compelling reasons and data to support Option 1 or 2.
Can you publish how requests for open enrollment of non-Waukee Community School District students be handled? Will they be allowed to select which feeder system they want for open enrollment? Also, will residents residing within the Waukee CSD boundaries be allowed to request enrollment or change to the other feeder school/high school than what their residence boundary assigns them to.
  • For students who are not residents of the Waukee CSD, we will follow the current policies regarding Open Enrollment under the terms and conditions of Iowa Code section 282.18 and 281–Iowa Administrative Code 17. More information can be found here: https://waukeeschools.org/enroll/open-enrollment/
  • For students who are residents of the Waukee CSD, requests for attendance/boundary changes will be considered in accordance with policy and procedures.
Is there a layout of what the changes to the current high school will look like?

We have gathered input, feedback and gathered an initial set of ideas and plans for changes to our current high school. A plan, including timelines and specific changes, has not been developed. At this point we are engaged in finalizing the design development process for our second high school and the bond referendum campaign. Upon successful passage of our bond referendum and acceptance of the design of our second high school floor plan by our board of education, we will further develop plans for improvements to Waukee High School.

What about orchestra? What about increased foreign language options?

Waukee Community School District continues to be the fastest growing district in Iowa. For the last 11 years, the school district has averaged 478 new students per year. Because of this type of growth, we have to strike a balance between increasing curricular, co-curricular, extra-curricular offerings with maintaining the ability to hire approximately 40 additional teachers each year due to enrollment growth and building facilities in a proactive manner.

There are plans for opening a second high school. There are also plans for building a new elementary. What are the plans for the middle grades? The middle schools need expansion as well.

During the fall of 2017, Waukee Community School District (WCSD) administrators worked with RSP & Associates to determine the capacity of our 6-7 and 8-9 buildings. Now that we have developed a comprehensive understanding of our capacity at the middle-level, we will match our updated enrollment data and then make plans for how we will accommodate students at the middle level. Those plans are not finalized at the time of this publication. However, WCSD is aware of future enrollment pressures at the middle level and will work with necessary stakeholders to plan accordingly.

What happens if the bond referendum doesn’t pass? How will the 2nd high school be financed?

The district would be required to delay construction plans. In six months, the referendum committee would ask the board to call another election for the referendum. Due to the delay, the cost of facilities and improvements could experience an increase.

Without a second high school, the district will be faced with tough decisions that could adversely impact programming and opportunities available to students. Given that enrollment will continue to increase and is expected to be at 2,500 (2021-22) and 2,600 (2022-23) in grades 10-12 we may be required to explore the following alternatives:

  • Portable classrooms.  
  • Increased enrollment in all courses.
  • Alteration of start/end times for high school student schedules.  
  • Forced capped enrollment in high school courses, extra-curricular and co-curricular opportunities.
  • Increased frequency of high school students being forced to enroll in elective courses that are not of their choice.
  • Increased risk of students feeling less connected to their school environment.
  • Increased student-to-counselor ratio, decreasing access to services.
Will the new high school have a pool to support the swimming and diving team? If not, where will the new high school team plan to hold swim practice since the current high school uses the Waukee YMCA pool?

No, the second high school will not have a pool. Pools are expensive, not only to build but to maintain.

Estimated Construction Costs:

  • $870,000 Architect/Design
  • $11.8 million Construction (General Contractor)
  • $200,000 Technology and Signage

Estimated Ongoing Annual Maintenance Costs:

  • $90,000 on utilities
  • $25,000 on chemicals and supplies
  • $150,000+ on salaries and benefits for three full-time employees to manage the facility (Aquatics Director, Assistant Aquatics Director, Custodian).

Building a pool is not a fiscally responsible decision for our district. As we look at our five-year financial forecast, the district cannot afford the ongoing maintenance cost and keep up with the required classroom staffing needs due to increased enrollment.

Swimming is not the only sport that will not have a district-owned facility to practice and compete in. The second high school will also not have a bowling alley but it will have a bowling team.

The district will continue to explore options with our community partners for additional time and space to support the swimming program.

What are upcoming key dates for this process?
  • Spring 2018: Comprehensive Boundary Process Begins
  • February 6, 2018: Bond Issue Vote for second high school
Where will Waukee Community School District’s second high school be located?

Waukee Community School District’s second high school will be located approximately ½ mile north of Hickman Road, along and to the east of 10th Street, and south of a future westward expansion of Douglas Parkway in Waukee. This project will be a part of a 160-acre development between the City of Waukee and the Waukee Community School District.

The APEX program is an example of why my wife and I chose Waukee over other school districts. After we have two high schools is the plan for the current APEX program and facility to be used by both high schools?

Waukee APEX is a district program that will serve both high schools.

Is the district planning to provide more parking than we have at the current high school?

Yes. The schematic layout of the facility, coupled with shared space with the City of Waukee will allow for adequate parking.

Will there be a feeder system established for the two high schools?

A plan for the physical transition of students to new buildings will be developed during the district’s Boundary Committee work. This work will start during the 2017-18 school year. A recommendation will go to Board of Education in December of 2018.

How can the district have new construction projects while also reducing staff due to budget constraints?

Staff salaries are expenditures from the general fund. The cuts made the past two years were needed to ensure the district did not overspend the general fund. Construction projects are primarily funded through Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), SAVE (sales tax), General Obligation Bonds and the Debt Service Fund. These funds cannot be used for salaries or program needs. This is why districts can build new buildings, but still have to make staff reductions.

Who reviews how the district is spending taxpayer funds for construction projects?

Construction projects are part of the annual audit conducted by an external auditing firm and there are several checks and balances in place to ensure all contracts are properly entered into and all bills are properly reviewed, coded and paid.

How are construction bids solicited?

Under Iowa law, construction projects exceeding $135,000, must be competitively bid utilizing a specific process outlined in Iowa Code. The school board must hold a public hearing and subsequently approve the plans, specifications, form of contract and estimated total cost of a construction project prior to awarding any bids on a project.

Who approves construction contracts?

The school board is the only entity that can approve contracts.

How are construction contracts awarded?

The contracts for construction must be awarded to the contractor submitting the lowest responsive, responsible bid. The decision to award all construction contracts is made solely by the WCSD Board of Education upon consideration of the recommendation from the architect and/or district administration. In some cases, legal counsel may be consulted to determine the lowest responsive, responsible bid if there are irregularities in the bid process or responses.

What is a payment application?

A payment application is a form used by a contractor to seek progress payments for labor and materials that are part of the total contract amount approved by the Board of Education. A payment application must be approved the contractor, architect and school district in order for it to be valid.

How does the payment process start?

The payment process typically begins when a general contractor submits a payment application to the architect. The architect then reviews the payment application and verifies that the work listed on the payment application has, in fact, been performed in accordance with the contract documents. Once that verification has been made, the architect signs off on the pay application and it is sent to the District for its review and approval.

What will the payment process for the second high school construction project look like?

Upon receipt of a payment application, staff members in the district business office will review the pay application and any supporting documentation from the architect and apply the appropriate budget code. If there are questions about a payment application the district staff may consult with legal counsel or the architect prior to recommending payment to the board. Next, the payment application will be submitted for board review and approval. This will appear as an action item on the board agenda, similar to how change orders are processed. Once the payment application is paid, it will be included in the list of bills to be audited and allowed by the WCSD Board of Education at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Only upon approval by the board will a payment application be paid.

Is there more than one person who oversees the payment process?

Yes. In addition to oversight from the board, the district has internal controls in place to ensure the person who inputs the invoice for payment is different from the person who issues the check. There is always more than one person overseeing the payment process.

Who approves change orders for construction projects?

Change order requests from the contractor for increased or decreased fees or time must also be approved by the architect and submitted to the WCSD Board of Education for approval. All change orders and pay applications are approved as part of the public board meeting process.

When Ankeny created two high schools they started preparing students in 8th grade. What preparations are going to occur so students don’t feel as if they were removed from their high school? Will the schools compete against each other in extracurriculars?

Administration and staff will involve students when planning for the opening of the second high school in a manner that doesn’t overshadow the current high school students, activities, athletics, etc. Students currently in 7th, 8th and 9th grade (graduating classes of 2022, 2023, 2024) will be the first students to transition into two high schools. A timeline and process for branding the second high school will be shared with the Board of Education at the start of the 2019 calendar year. Administration will communicate with families as more details become available.  

I thought the existing set up (Grades 6-7, 8-9, 10-12) was our ideal configuration. If we change to a 6-8, 9-12 what is the effect on academics and staffing?

If a grade level configuration change is part of the recommendation to the BOE the administrators will work closely with staff, students and families to ensure a smooth transition for academics, curricular and extracurricular opportunities.

Has a K-6, 7-9, 10-12 grade configuration been considered? This is my suggestion for safety concerns. I think this is how all other school districts in other parts of Iowa are and other states.

The WCSD Board of Education, during the Jan. 23, 2018 meeting discussed which options would be considered.  The two options include 1) the current grade level configuration: K-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12 or 2) K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

Districts across the state have a wide variety of grade level configurations depending on the size of the district, whether the enrollment in the district is decreasing or increasing and the facilities available for students. Some districts have a stand-alone kindergarten building. Some have K-8, K-2 and 3-5 or 3-8 buildings. Many districts have changed grade level configuration throughout the years as enrollment changes, or sharing agreements/mergers are implemented.

At least some of the current MS/JH buildings were built while the district was K-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12. Are the buildings set up or can they be setup with little cost for a different grade configuration?

Yes, the facilities can currently accommodate the two options that are under consideration.

1) the current grade level configuration: K-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12 or 2) K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

How does the district/city plan to handle the traffic on Alice’s Rd from the middle school, Prairieview and high school? How is traffic taken into consideration on Warrior Lane, not only for Waukee Middle, but also where parents have to drive to an elementary school?

The district has initiated a traffic study which will be completed this spring. The study will include recommendations which could impact daily schedules for buildings, traffic flow improvements, etc. Results will be shared with the community upon receipt and analysis of the study.

Do we know where the 10th elementary school will be located?

The district hopes to announce the location for elementary #10 prior to the end of the school year.

Will two middle school 6/7 be enough or do we need a 3rd one? If so when?

If there are no changes to the current grade level configuration a solution for overcrowding at the 6-7 level will be needed in 2022 or 2023. This is based on enrollment projections shared with the district in January 2018.

Will kids attending the current high school need to move to the new high school even if they only have one year to graduate due to this boundary process

At this point, the answer to your question is yes. The administration will work closely with students and families to offer opportunities for students to generate excitement in being a part of creating the culture for the second high school. Administration has also been in contact with other districts to learn from their success and also what things to avoid when adding a second high school. We want this to be an exciting time for students, their families and the communities we serve.

How does open enrollment work today?

Open Enrollment is the process by which parents/guardians residing in an Iowa district may enroll their children into another Iowa school district under the terms and conditions of Iowa Code section 282.18 and 281–Iowa Administrative Code 17. The deadline for students entering Grades 1-12 is March 1. The deadline for students entering kindergarten is September 1.

Waukee Community School District does not offer internal open enrollment between our attendance centers. Board of Education Policy 501.15 provides guidance for student attendance center placement.

Which elementary buildings house open enrolled students?

This year (2017-18) open enrollment students are at Woodland Hills Elementary, Waukee Elementary and Walnut Hills Elementary.

How are open enrolled students assigned to an attendance center?

The district assigns open enrolled students to buildings based on the availability of space. Building assignments can change year-to-year for some open enrolled students if a building becomes overcrowded.

Open enrolled students from Des Moines, Indianola, I-35, Martensdale St. Mary’s, Norwalk, Southeast Polk, Van Meter or West Des Moines (Except Clive) Community School District are assigned to attend Woodland Hills Elementary School, South Middle School, Timberline School or Waukee High School.

Open enrolled students from Ankeny, Dallas Center-Grimes, Johnston, West Des Moines (Clive) or Urbandale Community School District are assigned to attend Walnut Hills Elementary School.

Open enrolled students from Adel-Desoto-Minburn, Earlham, Panorama, Perry, West Central Valley or Winterset Community School District are assigned to attend Waukee Elementary School, Waukee Middle School, Prairieview School or Waukee High School.

How many open enrolled students are in each building?

There are 237 students currently open enrolled into Waukee Community School District. Buildings with less than 10 students cannot be reported to protect the privacy of those students and their families.

  • Woodland Hills Elementary = 19 open enrolled students
  • Waukee Elementary = 13 open enrolled students
  • Walnut Hills Elementary = 45 open enrolled students
  • Waukee Middle School = 22 open enrolled students
  • Prairieview = 14 open enrolled students
  • Timberline = 20 open enrolled students
  • Waukee High School = 72

Have the members been selected for the Boundary Committee? If not, how would I go about volunteering?

The district is in the process of finalizing the committee members for the upcoming boundary committee. If you would like to be considered for future district committees please complete our volunteer form. There is a question that asks: Are you interested in volunteering for a District-level committee (i.e. Boundary, focus groups, etc.)?

When will the boundary process start for the second high school and radiant elementary school?

  • February 2018: Comprehensive Boundary Process Begins