By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — In order for the brand-new school to do its job, an old school needs to do a new job.
The nearly completed Liberty Elementary School on Ottumwa’s south side has been built to replace three aging schools in the area. But even at 100,000 square feet, not every south-side student will fit into Liberty. That challenge could be solved at the Ottumwa school board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at their conference room, located at the McCarroll central office.
One possible option would have had some area kids spending their elementary “career” at an older school while others got to attend the $12 million building. Yet the school board voted early on: They wanted every student in the area to be able to benefit from the new, state-of-the art school. So the 1970s-era Douma Elementary School will eventually house the “extra” students. Douma was determined to be the building in the best shape to handle the task.
So the solution means kindergarten and first-grade students will go to the renovated school, then will spend the rest of their elementary years attending Liberty Elementary School.
But the district won’t be able to use Douma without extensive changes. On Monday, the board is expected to vote on the final designs for that project. The district is budgeting around $4.5 million for the renovation. That’s less expensive than building a new school, said officials after building the new south-side elementary school, which is the district’s first new school in nearly 40 years.
Planned renovations include new bathrooms, a new multipurpose room and redoing all the “mechanicals and electricals.” They also plan to renovate classrooms.
Because the brick and the roof are in good shape, Douma should have some longevity. But the remodel will take time. This coming school year will see south-side kindergarten and first-grade students attending other buildings while Douma spends the year in construction mode.