As you may be aware, over the past several months, AEA 267 has been involved in conversations with each of the school boards of the “resident” school districts where we operate special schools on their behalf. (Specifically, we are operating Castle Hill School on behalf of Waterloo CSD; River Hills School on behalf of the Cedar Falls CSD; Bremwood School on behalf of Waverly CSD; Four Oaks Schools on behalf of Mason City CSD; and the Learning Center on behalf of Clear Lake CSD.) Last summer, AEA 267 and these districts learned that changes at the federal level required that the school districts either formally contract with the agency to operate the schools or make a decision to take ownership of the programming independently. Last year, every school elected to continue to contract with AEA 267, but as part of that agreement each school district had until March 1 to make a final decision about next year’s programming.
This past week we learned about two significant changes:
The Waterloo CSD has made a decision to assume the programming for the Castle Hill School. Thus, the school will close effective at the end of this school year. Students from Waterloo CSD who attended this program will receive services and programming from Waterloo CSD at sites within the district while students attending Castle Hill School from surrounding school districts will have an opportunity to take advantage of extended programming at the Bremwood School. Our AEA 267 staff members who have worked at Castle Hill will have an opportunity to apply for open positions with Waterloo CSD or potentially work in other AEA 267 program sites; however, change is unavoidable. Staff members are to be applauded for the grace and professionalism with which they have handled this challenging situation. It is evident through comments from parents that the AEA 267 staff who have worked in this program are highly respected and appreciated.
Secondly, some changes are on the horizon for the Four Oaks program. Mason City CSD will assume some elements of the program including transportation and “specials” instruction such as art and physical education. This change will impact those staff members who have provided these services in the past and individual conversations are taking place regarding next steps. The remainder of the Four Oaks programming will remain somewhat the same as in years past.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in this process including both union groups (Communication Workers of America and the AEA 267 Education Association), staff, administrators, and the news media for their patience, respect and desire to ensure that partnerships with our local school districts remained at the fore of these important decisions.