WPS Superintendent/Board release letter addressing recent public comments & concerns
Communication clarifies District's stance on controversial issues of proposed health standards, critical race theory, masks/vaccines, and facility needs
Over the past several weeks, there has been increased patron comment about the Wahoo Public School District regarding several topics. The board of education and administrative team would like to take an opportunity to provide information and clarity about these topics.
Proposed Health Standards
The initial draft of the new health standards proposed by the Nebraska Department of Education was released in March, 2021. The draft of those standards was then available for public comment and response, before being turned back by the state board of education for revision. At this time, a second draft of those health standards is still being revised with a planned release of early this fall. Once the second draft is established, the standards will again be available for public comment and consideration. After the public comment period, the standards will either be finalized or returned for further drafting.
Regardless of the outcome of the second or future drafts, the district is under no obligation to adopt the state health standards and, at this point, there isn’t any conversation about moving away from what we currently utilize at Wahoo Public Schools for health education.
Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory is a relatively new discussion, though it has existed for decades as an academic study. The district does not have curriculum incorporating critical race theory and doesn’t have intentions of implementing new curriculum incorporating critical race theory.
Masks and Vaccines
As of today, there are no directed health measures in place that make the use of masks or vaccinations mandatory in schools for students and staff. We support the use of masks for those who choose to wear them in school, but we do not expect to make it a requirement. Additionally, there are no intentions, at the local level, to make vaccinations mandatory. While vaccinations may protect individuals from the virus or potential quarantines due to exposure, as a school district, we do not plan on making inoculation required for attendance.
At the regular meeting of the board of education on June 21, it was approved to form the Wahoo Public Schools Facilities Corporation. This organization is a non-profit corporation that enables the board of education to explore alternative funding sources, other than a bond referendum, to address the building needs we have within the district. This financing would assist in addressing the building needs we have within the district and incorporates the input provided by the community advisory committee in the late winter/early spring of 2020. Because of the pandemic, that advisement was put on hold to focus on the immediate priority of meeting the needs of our students in unprecedented times. The board is starting to engage in considerations of how to provide space and educational opportunities to the students within the district, while being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. The need for increased space is a result of growing enrollment (1-2% student enrollment increase per year during any 10-year period starting in 1997-98), capacity concerns in all three buildings, and the continued growth of the Wahoo community with new housing developments in different stages of planning/execution.
If the district chooses to pursue alternative financing, it must do so within the limitations of the levy allocated to the building fund, which is currently set at a maximum of $0.14 by state statute. The $0.14 building fund levy has been consistent in every budget over the past five years. In other words, alternative financing must be done within funds already requested in the levy.
Our next step is to interview architects to assist the district with reviewing our current capacity and eminent space deficiencies, followed by developing alternatives for board consideration.
We appreciate and respect the feedback and comments from all and hope this information is helpful. If you have questions, please reach out to the superintendent’s office or board members, as noted above.
WPS Superintendent Brandon Lavaley and the Wahoo Public Schools Board of Education