Cedar Rapids School District collaborates with Wilson Middle School after staff voice safety concerns

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 4:10 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Leaders in the Cedar Rapids Community School District say they’re glad staff at Wilson Middle School recently spoke up to voice safety concerns.

”The only way we can find solutions is if they’re vocal about them and they state them,” said Nicole Kooiker, Deputy Superintendent at CRCSD.

Wilson staff worked with the Iowa State Education Association to send a letter to district leaders after an incident in November. It’s prompted a collaboration between the district and the school to make improvements.

We received a copy of the letter staff sent to the district through an open records request. In it, Wilson staff are asking for help stating the school is “in crisis.”

Letter sent from Wilson staff to the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
Letter sent from Wilson staff to the Cedar Rapids Community School District.(KCRG)

The four page letter was sent on November 22nd, just four days after an incident at the school prompted a “soft lockdown.”

Letter sent from Wilson staff to the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
Letter sent from Wilson staff to the Cedar Rapids Community School District.(KCRG)

District staff told TV9 last week that the intruders never made it past the entry way of the school.

The letter from Wilson staff goes on to say a parent got into the school on November 18th and threatened a teacher. Records show Cedar Rapids police were called to the building that day, but no arrests were made.

The district says it’s been working with Wilson staff to address each of their concerns, first and foremost, safety.

CRCSD statement in response to Wilson incident.
CRCSD statement in response to Wilson incident.(KCRG)

Staff listed five areas of improvement in their letter to the district. Those included more support for the behavior focus program, reconsidering the opt-out protocol for magnet schools, addressing safety needs for the building, revising the suspension policy, and asking for more participation from the district.

”Based on our conversations we have added some radios, we’ve added some additional cameras in various areas. We’ve added also some more rights for people to have access to those cameras,” Kooiker said.

District leaders say they’ve been visiting the school more regularly to offer support and have already filled multiple open positions.

“You know the more bodies you have the better you can cover areas and I think there’s a lot of added pressure on staff when individuals are absent because it’s a smaller staff so I do believe that filling some of those roles has assisted,” said Kooiker.

The district sent a follow-up letter to Wilson staff on December 1st outlining an action plan for improvements. While many of those improvements have been made, they acknowledge there is still room to grow and they’re commending staff for voicing their concerns.

“We haven’t arrived yet but I don’t think you ever fully arrive, you’re always about continuous improvement so I think we’re all on the same page,” said Kooiker.

We spoke with a teacher off camera who signed the original letter sent to the district. She told us staff have felt more supported since sending the letter and have noticed improvements.

While each school building has it’s own challenges, the district believes issues with student behavior and lack of staffing are widespread. They say those are issues schools are facing nationwide.