Informaline April 20, 2015

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Board Approves Budget, Calls for State Funding On Monday, April 13, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education approved its preliminary budget at $150 million, maintaining the district’s property tax rate at $13.27 per $1,000 valuation. According to state law, school districts must adopt a budget for the upcoming school year by April 15.

The approved budget may need to be adjusted because the state legislature has not determined how much funding it will provide schools.

Under Iowa law, the legislature was to approve school funding – called Supplement State Aid – for the 2015-16 school year during last year’s legislative session. This was not completed. There will be no increase in state funding for education if the legislature fails to take action. As of last week, the Governor and House were supportive of 1.25 percent for fiscal year 2015-16, while the Senate originally passed 6 percent, then 4 percent, and most recently proposed 2.625 percent. The legislature remained at an impasse last week.

The School Board passed a resolution Monday night encouraging the Governor’s Office to break the impasse and set state aid at no less than 2.624% for 2015-16 and no less than 6 percent for 2016-17.

The resolutions states, “At the supplemental state aid rate of 1.25 percent, Iowa will drop to more than $1,600 per student below the national per student funding average. The past 10 years of state aid have not allowed schools to keep up with the cost of living, collective bargaining settlements, utilities, IPERS contributions, school improvement efforts, and other program initiatives that would benefit students, etc. The March 19, 2015 Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) set the 2015 revenue estimate at a 4.3 percent growth rate and set the FY 2016 estimate at 6.0 percent. With this above average revenue growth, it is time to properly fund public schools. Legislative action delayed beyond statutory requirements creates economic inefficiencies by compressing the district’s work load into a very short window of time in order for the district to meet its Chapter 20 contractual obligation dates. This cost is borne by all local property tax payers.”

The full resolution is available at:

Board Approves 2015-16 Calendar, Aug. 24 Start The first day of school for the 2015-16 school year will be Monday, Aug. 24, based on a new school calendar approved by the School Board April 13, 2015. The full 2015-16 calendar can be found on the district website.

Calendar Highlights

  • First Day of School for Students: Aug. 24
  • First Day of Tiger Cubs Preschool: Aug. 31
  • Winter Break: Dec. 23-Jan. 3
  • End of First Semester: Jan. 13
  • Spring Break: March 14-18
  • Last Day of Tiger Cubs Preschool: May 27
  • Last Student Day: June 1 (pending snow days)
  • Professional Development/Flex Days – No School For Students: Sept. 21, Nov. 25, Jan. 18, Feb. 26, March 11, April 29

The 2015-16 school year calendar is based on instructional hours. It meets the requirements of a new state law that says Iowa schools cannot start the academic year earlier than Aug. 23.

The district will soon begin work to develop a proposed calendar for the 2016-17 school year.


The School Board originally approved a calendar for the 2015-16 school year in May 2014 with a start date of Aug. 12 and the first semester ending before winter break. This calendar was developed through the work of a district calendar committee, which included parents and teachers representing each school attendance center in the district. The committee considered several factors, including input from student, parent, and staff surveys. To implement the original calendar, the state would have to waive the law requiring schools to start classes during the week of Sept. 1. In the past, the state routinely approved these requests.

In December 2014, the Iowa Department of Education (DE) notified Iowa school districts that it would no longer routinely grant waivers, and a new process was implemented. The WDMCS submitted a waiver under the new requirements. The district also developed two additional proposed calendars, one with a start date of August 31 and another with a start date of August 24, which was approved by the School Board as noted above. Public hearings were held on both of these alternate calendars.

With the start of the 2015 state legislative session, several bills were proposed that addressed school start dates. Eventually, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill stating schools could start no sooner than Aug. 23 and only allowing some school districts with year-round calendars to be exempt from the new rules. The bill excludes high schools from seeking such exemptions.

WDMCS Graduation Rate Second Among Ten Largest Iowa Districts West Des Moines Community Schools has the second highest four-year graduation rate of the ten largest school districts in Iowa.

The WDMCS four-year graduation rate has risen to 92.9 percent, according to data released today by the Iowa Department of Education. The rate rose 2.35 percent from 90.55 percent in 2012-13 and 0.73 percent from 92.17 percent in 2010. The Iowa four-year graduation rate is 90.5 percent after rising continuously for four years

WDMCS also exceeded state rates in the following student categories: English Language Learners, Individualized Education Program, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, White, Female, and Male.

The WDMCS five-year graduation rate is 91.65 percent for the Class of 2014. The five-year graduation rate reflects students who were part of a graduating class but took an extra year to complete high school. They include students with disabilities and students in at-risk programs. The Iowa five-year graduation rate is 90.23 percent.

The WDMCS 9-12 dropout rate for 2013-14 was 2.43 percent. The rate reflects the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year. The Iowa 9-12 dropout rate for 2013-14 is 2.7 percent.

For a more detailed report, visit the Iowa Department of Education website at

Reminder: April 24 Professional Development Day There will be no school for students on April 24. It is a professional development and collaboration day for teachers, who will be working on building goals.

Reminder: Last Day Of School June 3, 2015 School was not in session Jan. 7 due to severe cold and low wind-chill values. The last day of school is now set for Wednesday, June 3, which will follow the early-out schedule.

Kitchen Science written by Annie Orsini Boom! Splat! Splash! Ewww! A parent does not want to hear those sounds in their kitchen, unless there is a science experimenthappening. There is so much science that can be done in your kitchen and backyard. Teacher leader Annie Orsini wanted to share a few of her family’s favorite science explorations with WDMCS families. These activities are simple to set up, but jam-packed with learning.

Dissolving Peeps, from Lemon Lime Adventures

See what happens when you try to dissolve marshmallow Peeps in different liquids. Don’t tell your kids, but there is no way to dissolve a Peep. Select a few liquids to try, like water, soda, vinegar, laundry detergent, coffee, or milk. Make predictions about what will happen. You could observe the changes for twenty minutes or check back periodically throughout the day. Ask your child what they notice. Even though the Peeps won’t dissolve, your child may be able to draw some interesting conclusions. In our house, it sparked an interesting discussion about brushing your teeth!

Egg Drop Challenge, from Buggy and Buddy

Challenge your child to create a structure that will protect a raw egg from cracking. Use any materials you want — yogurt containers, plastic bags, pipe cleaners, sponges, and LEGO® bricks are all great ones to try! Then test out the contraption by dropping the egg off the front porch or deck or out a window with adult supervision. Redesign based on what happens. Encourage your child to keep trying. This is what scientists and engineers do!

Oobleck Cornstarch Science, from Steve Spangler Science

Make oobleck. You just need water, cornstarch, and a large mixing bowl, plus a place to make a mess. Mix one cup of cornstarch with up to half a cup of water, adding the water slowly until it reaches the consistency of syrup. Add food coloring, if you wish. Encourage your child to get their hands messy and play around with it. Observe what happens if you move slowly or try to hold the oobleck still and if you try to roll it up. Substances like oobleck do not have the standard properties of either solids or liquids; they are referred to as “non-Newtonian fluids.” Discuss whether oobleck is more like a solid or a liquid.

Keep in mind that scientists ask questions, make observations, carry out investigations, design solutions, and test their thinking. When exploring science with your child, you don’t need to be an expert. Listen and ask questions about your child’s thinking and model curiosity by wondering aloud. For example, on a walk, you might wonder about why it is cooler in the shade or why there are so many earthworms above ground. For more tips on sparking your child’s interest in science, check out this PBS website. Happy exploring!

Virtual Backpack
Flyers on community and district events, activities and programs from the Clive Historical Society, Des Moines Playhouse, and more!

Virtual Backpack