Next steps for STC middle school, district

A view of the back side of the South Tama middle school following the August 10 derecho. The 105 year old building sustained roof damage and water intrusion and is off limits for use until at least December. Allison Graham/News Chronicle

One of the big questions that has lingered since the August 10 derecho is, how much insurance money will the school receive for damages sustained at the STC Middle School?

That answer is now known. The district will be receiving roughly 1.5 million. That return will go to repairing the roof.

“It was not as much as we were hoping,” Superintendent Jared Smith said.

Members of the STC school board met in a regular meeting Monday evening. The sentiment was 1.5 million was awfully low compared to what they thought they might get.

Smith told a room of 30-40 people at a community meeting in September he was being told the school would receive anywhere from 1 million to six million.

“My takeaway (from that meeting) was a lot of what we do depends on how much we get back in insurance,” Smith said.

Smith held the community meeting to restart the conversation of a possible bond vote in March of 2021. A $20.8 million bond issue for a new middle school building failed last March.

At the community meeting some community members including Charlotte Upah said she would have more interest in putting funds towards a new build if the insurance money received was closer to the six million dollar figure.

Unfortunately at this time it doesn’t seem a higher amount is in the cards. Smith is going to be looking for second opinions.

“I think we need to do our due diligence more because that number is really low,” school board member Mandy Lekin said.

The board discussed the possibility of doing 3D imaging to see further damages to the 105 year old building.

Middle School Timelines

Due to the derecho several grade levels shifted plans and locations to start the school year.

Fifth grade moved back into the elementary building. Preschool is being housed at St. Pats in Tama. Sixth through eighth grade students are currently doing all virtual school as they await needed improvements to the Partnership building in Tama.

The goal is to have 6th-8th grade students back in school for 50% hybrid learning following Thanksgiving Monday, Nov. 30.

To allow space for the 6th-8th grade students other programs are re-locating including the trauma unit, technology department, Iowa Valley, the alternative high school and the print shop. They will all be moving into the north part of the middle school where there were few to no damages sustained.

“I know there is going to be some public perception about the safety of putting 30 kids back into the middle school.” Smith said.

New COVID-19 guidelines

The state issued new guidelines last week that eases up on quarantining rules as long as masks are being worn properly.

Administration is recommending to continue using the 50% hybrid plan for the second quarter which begins in November.

“I don’t think it would be wise of us right now to return to 100% capacity,” Smith said.

Students who are currently virtual will have an opportunity to move to hybrid for the 2nd quarter.

“We are going to see how the 2nd quarter and flu season go, but are hoping to return to 100% in-person learning after the new year (either January 4th or January 25th),” Smith said.