The beginning of the 2021-22 school year is quickly approaching and school officials with Hiawatha USD 415 are looking forward to the new academic year.

After a less than normal school year last year, Superintendent Lonnie Moser said he and his administrative staff is excited to get back to business.

In addition to welcoming several new faces throughout the district, there have been several big projects as part of this summer’s Capital Outlay to improve the district. The most eye-catching projects are happening at the Hiawatha Elementary — with a new exterior paint job and a new parking lot.

The school parking lot has been an up-and-coming one for several years as the once small parking lot has expanded over the years due to nearby houses being torn down and the district acquiring additional land. The parking lot has been gravel since that time and last year a separate bus lane was made along Miami Street to help with traffic flow.

This year, the finances were available through Capital Outlay funds to add paved parking islands to help with parking and traffic flow. In addition, electric work has been completed with new lights being installed in the parking lot. The primary contractor for the project is JB Contractors, who won the bid with a price tag of $65,561 back in March.

Concrete islands were installed to help with parking and traffic flow and the lot is now ready to be chip and sealed in the next week with the help of the county.

The final product will essentially be a paved lot, which will help with not only the traffic, but muddy days and snow removal.

In addition, Kevin Fleagle and Gary Folsom and crews have been painting the exterior of the building. The new colors are a deep red and gray and painting will mostly be completed by the first day of school — however, some final touches could go past that date.

Moser said several other projects were completed as part of the normal summer Capital Outlay plans that also included carpet replacement in some others, refreshing gym floors and refinishing parking lots.

Moser said Summer School was a great success and gave the participating students an opportunity to recapture lost learning due to the COVID pandemic. He said the 2020-21 school year only had a few setbacks with remote learning, but noted the most “learning lost” was in the spring of 2020 when the state shut down all schools without any warning or preparation.

“Covid was a big challenge for our performance assessments and social and emotional learning suffered too,” he said.

Moser said he felt USD 415 was very fortunate to have been in the classroom for most of the prior academic year as many schools stayed in hybrid and remote learning for much of the year.

Moser said he is optimistic about the coming school year, but cautious as well, with health concerns in mind. He said the district will follow with guidance offered by the county health department and the state, but planned for school to begin as a “normal year,” with all activities open to the public with normal attendance allowed.

“Some little things may never be the same again and that’s probably all right — we know how to be proactive now,” he said. “The fourth quarter of last year is a good indication of how we plan to start school — we didn’t have many restrictions in place and had no issues.”

In the meantime, district officials are just excited to be making plans for the coming year.

“We have some new faces, some new classes and a few other new things going on,” he said. “We are optimistic to be getting back to our pre-pandemic goals and planning for a good year.”

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