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Progress on many fronts for Liberty High

Principal Scott Kibby gives an update on the Home of the Bolts

NORTH LIBERTY– Construction continues on the new Liberty High School in North Liberty, and Principal Scott Kibby was pleased to report the building, set to open for the 2017-2018 school year, is on schedule. Kibby recently sat for an interview highlighting the school’s progress, not only in construction but also in staffing.
Construction update
Much of the flooring is complete, particularly the terrazzo in the academic wings, and Kibby said most of the painting is done. Furniture is going in where possible in coordination with the flooring work. He pointed out the gym and auditorium will be among the last spaces completed, as they are being utilized currently as a staging area.
“There’re pallets of interior doors in the band room. They’ve got to get all that stuff hung and done, and then they’ll work on those rooms,” Kibby said. “But the classrooms are in really good shape.”
Whiteboards are up in the classrooms, and SMART boards (interactive whiteboards and screens) are ready to go but will not be installed until work is a little farther along to avoid issues with construction dust.
“All of the science labs are done…the gas jets, the sinks, all that is done,” Kibby added.

Staffing update
Ten core teachers were hired before winter break, Kibby said, and job openings closed on Friday, Jan. 20, leaving him with 994 applications for roughly 40 teaching positions.
“I had 54 band (applications) and 57 choir. The pool of candidates (for all positions) is really good,” Kibby said. “People want to come to Liberty, start a new school, start a new program. There’s a lot of excitement about it.”
In addition to the first 10, Kibby has hired teachers for business, family and consumer science and art. Jennifer Saylor (art) Ben Gast (business) and Beth Long (family and consumer science) will all come from Iowa City West High to join the Liberty family.
Band and choir were on-tap for the week of Jan. 30 with 11 interviews scheduled.
“Those people will do the marching band and the show choir,” Kibby noted.

Enrollment update
Kibby was looking at 674 registrations in the district’s PowerSchool system as of Saturday, Jan. 28. In addition, he knew of at least a dozen more students who hadn’t registered yet because they aren’t in the Iowa City Community School District’s system.
He referenced Heritage Christian School, which only provides K-8 programming, with high school students typically going to West or Clear Creek Amana (CCA), as well students who may otherwise attend Regina High School in Iowa City.
“When all is said and done, I think I’ll be close to that 700 (enrollment figure) I was hoping for,” he said.

Spring sports
Kibby hopes to field both freshman boys’ and girls’ soccer teams in the black, silver and purple of the Liberty High Lightning Bolts. He is cautiously optimistic, but acknowledges the sheer number of students currently attending West High that would need to go out for soccer to make it happen is a daunting challenge.
“That’s pretty ambitious because West is keeping their three teams (varsity, sophomore-junior varsity and freshman) and I wanted to add a fourth team for Liberty,” he said.
He noted 60-70 students would need to go out for soccer this year to make it happen.
“But if we can’t, we’ll do like we did for girls’ basketball, we’ll merge those together,” he explained.
Kibby had hoped to have a Liberty girls’ basketball team like he was able to have a Liberty boys’ basketball team, but the numbers just didn’t permit it. Instead, he was able to get freshmen transferring to Liberty to compromise one of West’s two freshman teams, green and gold.

Summer sports
Again, Kibby is planning to field freshman baseball and softball teams, with the ability to draw on eighth-graders promoting to freshmen in the fall as they are eligible to play high school sports.
“This year’s eighth graders (at North Central Jr. High in North Liberty) and freshmen will combine,” he said.

Fall, winter and beyond
Kibby is still planning on 14 varsity sports and sophomore football for the 2017-2018 academic year, a year in which Liberty will be independent of any athletic conference. The Bolts will officially become part of the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) in the 2018-2019 school year along with current WaMaC conference school Western Dubuque-Epworth. Tennis, bowling and swimming will be offered by placing interested Liberty student athletes with other schools’ teams in a sharing agreement as CCA does with Williamsburg for swimming and Iowa City West for bowling.
Should the Bolts find enough success, they will be eligible for all post-season play including earning a spot in the State Tournaments even as an independent school. And, both the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) and Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) have granted waivers allowing area schools to exceed their 22-game per season limits in order to help Kibby and the Bolts fill out their schedules for the first year. Once in the MVC, scheduling is handled through the conference with a handful of non-conference games/meets/tournaments, etc.
“People ask me, ‘What kind of schools are you going to play against?’ I’m trying to get a mix,” said Kibby. “Bigger 2As to maybe some smaller 4As.”
He’s looking at pitting the Bolts against area teams from Solon, CCA, West, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, West Liberty, Mount Pleasant and Mount Vernon as examples.
“I just think that’s a really nice mix,” he said, also mentioning tournaments in venues such as Charles City, Waterloo and Davis County.
As an independent, Kibby– acting as the athletic director until one is hired– is able to craft a schedule freely without regard to conference or district.
“It takes time, but it’s fun,” he said.
Excitement and building the Liberty brand
Kibby said the excitement around the initial Liberty teams and the new school exceeds his expectations.
“Everybody is just so positive and enthusiastic about it. It’s been awesome.”
It’s a lot of little things, he added, like just seeing kids in the Liberty uniforms.
“It’s been neat.”