The Ottumwa Courier

November 13, 2012

South-side school plan solidifies

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — When the school board votes on a name for the new school, it should be a name with meaning.

“When people ask why we chose the name, I want to be able to explain to them the [importance] of it to us, not say, ’cause it sounded cool,’” said Payson Moreland, one of the school board members discussing options at their meeting Monday.

The names Timber View, Liberty and Discovery remained on the list of options.

Fellow board member Jeff Strunk had just told the board that while working at Hy-Vee earlier in the day, he met several veterans during a celebration in their honor.

Strunk said when asked by them about names for the school, the one that seemed to be most popular was Liberty. He said Liberty makes him think of the veterans and their sacrifices on behalf of our nation.

Superintendent Davis Eidahl said whenever the district hosts veteran-oriented activities, there’s a strong response. And there are a lot of veterans, as well as an important National Guard unit, right in Ottumwa.

And there was a powerful response when the memorial wall honoring the fallen in the current war came to town.

“That wall also had the names of two OHS graduates on it,” said Eidahl.

“Liberty has meaning to kids and parents and everyone in our community,” said Strunk. “We [are reminded of] all the men and women who have served our nation.”

Moreland praised the idea, as did Carol Mitchell, the board president.

Other ideas have been suggested in the time between the last meeting and this one. Moreland said he’s been asked to reconsider the idea of naming the building after someone, like an educator.

He told the board he understands the desire to have something meaningful on the front of the building.

“I don’t have any name in mind — I’m not sure [choosing one] would be an easy task,” he said.

Especially, added Strunk, since the last building to be named was christened about four decades ago, meaning they would have to review and choose the one person who made a meaningful impact on the district during the last 40 years.

But when it comes to meaningful, most board members seemed to agree, honoring the troops seemed to gain traction Monday night. While that subject did not come up for a vote, there was a unanimous decision to replace the older schools on the south side of Ottumwa with the new school next year — no matter what it’s called.

The board voted unanimously to close Wildwood, Pickwick, Agassiz and Douma as kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary schools. That had been the plan, but this was the vote to make it “official.”

For the 2013 school year, Agassiz will be the kindergarten and first-grade school for students who would normally have attended Agassiz and Douma. Wildwood will be the kindergarten and first-grade school for those who, under current guidelines, would have gone to Wildwood and Pickwick.