WAVERLY – The District 145 Board of Education talked about graduation requirements amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and looked to the future by hiring new staff members at its April 6 meeting.

The school board passed a resolution suspending the district’s regular graduation and curriculum-related policies and giving Superintendent Dr. Corey Worrell the authority to determine who will graduate at the end of the school year.

The district closed classrooms in March as the pandemic began taking hold in the state. Online learning started a few days later.

“The main thing right now is trying to educate these kids with what we’re doing online,” Worrell said in an interview on Monday.

Because there are major changes in the way the students are being educated, it was not possible to adhere to the current policies, Worrell said. The resolution loosens the requirements for grading and the number of credit hours needed to graduate or advance to the next grade level.

“That way we’re not up against our old policies,” he said.

The district has set two dates for a public graduation ceremony, Worrell said. They cannot hold commencement on the third Sunday in May, as is the custom, because the state’s Directed Health Measures will still be in place. The latest DHM set by the governor on April 3 cancelled all school-related activities through May 31.

Worrell said they plan to hold graduation a few weeks later.

“We set up the June 14 date as the potential date to have regular graduation,” he said.

However, if social distancing restrictions remain in place through June, the district has a backup date of July 26. And if public gatherings are still prohibited in July, the graduation will be held online.

“If it doesn’t work, then we’d try to hold a virtual graduation on July 26,” he said.

Prom has been rescheduled as well. The event was originally supposed to be held on April 4. The new date is June 26, Worrell said, to be held at the original location, the DelRay Ballroom in Lincoln.

If the June date does not work out, prom will be cancelled, Worrell said, but he indicated parents may arrange some type of alternate version of the event, if possible.

The board also worked on staffing for the 2020-2021 school year by approving several resignations and filling some of the vacant positions.

There were several resignations and one retirement approved during the meeting. Assistant High School Principal Jed Givens, Eagle Pre-School Teacher Lauren Arbuckle, Fifth Grade Teacher Ashley Tobey, Middle School Band and Orchestra Instructor Jim Kucera and High School Art Teacher Lindsay Foxhoven all resigned, effected the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Ryan Reeder will step down as a high school special education teacher, but will remain the head boys basketball coach, Worrell said. Aaron Jones resigned from being the Robotics Club sponsor and District Courier Doug Neberman will retire effective May 29.

The board approved several new hires for the upcoming school year. Alek Gaard will fill a new position in the high school math department.

At last month’s board meeting, the board approved moving a position to the middle school, creating a new position in the language arts department, which will be filled by Garrett Borchers.

Virginia Curtiss was hired as intermediate school counselor, replacing Brooke Ruhter. Kristen Friesen will be the new high school English and theater teacher. She replaces Blake Tobey.

Kristine Spath, high school agriculture and family and consumer science teacher, will split her time between the middle school and high school. She replaces Mike Ziola at the middle school, where she will teach family and consumer science and agriculture. She will continue teaching agriculture classes at the high school.

Ziola is moving to the high school to teach the family and consumer science classes previously taught by Mallory Gregory.

Amanda Novak has been added to the special education staff to teach transition classes. The position was added by the school board using 15 percent of the full-time teacher hours from family and consumer science.

Brian Daniell rejoins the District 145 staff after spending two years as high school principal at Yutan Public Schools. Prior to that, he was assistant principal at Waverly for eight years. He was hired for 2020-2021 as a high school special education teacher.

The school board also approved two extra-duty assignments. Abbie Huenink will be the head coach of the high school unified track and field team, which includes special education students and their student or faculty partners. The assistant coach will be Reed Manstedt, who is also the high school head football coach. The district added unified track and field as an official sport last November.

The board also amended the district’s strategic planning goals. Worrell said the goals were put together by a committee of community members, students and staff in March. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the board felt it was necessary to extend the original date in two of the goals. The deadline to enact a comprehensive, multi-year master facilities plan was lengthened from 2021 to 2022. A similar one-year extension was granted to the goal to implement an inclusive communications plan.

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