OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa High School program admired by the community may have to be temporarily suspended.
The board and administration has nothing against the Building Trades program, said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. But they would be hard pressed to defend the expense of a teacher for a construction class with, as of now, fewer than five students officially registered.
Tom Shafer of Ottumwa, a board member for Habitat for Humanity, says he wants to see the program continue. Not only is it good for young people, he said, but when students work on a Habitat home, everyone wins.
Though a school board meeting was held in closed session Monday, it did invite Shafer and several others to provide input into its decision-making process, which would be on whether or not to renew the construction teacher's contract next year.
"I talked to them about keeping the program," Shafer said. "I'm concerned."
But they are keeping that vocational course, Eidahl said, and weren't trying to do away with it.
"We all agree with Tom," Eidahl added. "It's a great program."
But enrollment numbers indicate they may not be able to host it this coming year. Eidahl explained that the state of Iowa requires districts to tell teachers by April 15 they won't be needed next year. So even with that as a possibility, he said, they have to vote and inform the teacher now. Otherwise, they have a teacher in an empty classroom.
"That's the dilemma we're in," Eidahl said.
If, a day or a week or a month after the vote, there is a rush of students signing up, the district could call the instructor and request that they get ready to teach again.
"We're not cancelling the program," Eidahl emphasized.
Shafer said he’s hopeful.