OTTUMWA — With the excitement of a new school year come the changes students have come to expect.
This is especially true in Ottumwa this year with the opening of Liberty Elementary. More than 700 students from Douma, Agassiz and Pickwick elementary schools will be in the new building on Wednesday, making for an exciting first day of school.
It's also a time of transition as Douma and Agassiz elementary students in kindergarten and first grade will spend the year together at Agassiz.
For Sarah Fischer, principal of both Agassiz and Wildwood elementary schools, she sees the changes a little differently. This is her first year in the district, so she doesn't have the same reference point that longtime residents do. When teaching 5- and 6-year-olds, though, that's not necessarily important.
"The teachers (at Agassiz and Wildwood) have been doing things collectively as a staff to all be in the same building next year," Fischer said. "They've been in the same meetings, have the same handbooks. It's probably not that different for the students, at this age, because they're just excited to be in school."
The school handed out procedures for what parents need to remember for the first day of school tomorrow. Fischer says there will be plenty of staff around to get everyone in the right place at the right time.
"We're so excited to get started. The halls are so quiet — we want to get them filled up," she said.
For those little ones on their first day, Fischer had some last-minute advice.
"Come ready to learn and have fun doing it. Get a good night's sleep," she said.
In other buildings, though, the changes might not be as dramatic, but they are still vitally important to starting the year off right.
At Ottumwa High School, lessons learned from last year will be reinforced from Day One this year. Principal Mark Hanson has been emphasizing the 10 Standards of Success, and this year will be no different.
"There are a few changes in attire, and we will review that," he explained. "We'll also stress being accountable and getting work in on time."
Those 10 standards are a work in progress, and Hanson wants to make sure students and staff alike are all on the same page.
"We've made headway with the way students conduct themselves, the way they interact with each other, the way staff interacts with each other," he said. "It's a code we've all adopted, and we want to continue on that path."
One thing that won't be changing at the high school is the focus on academic excellence.
"We've set the bar high for our students and staff so they can reach new heights," Hanson said. "I firmly believe that."
At Evans Middle School, the major change will be a logistical one. The focus over the summer has been figuring out a traffic plan that will keep students from weaving between cars and prevent traffic hazards. The solution will be to allow vehicle traffic to exit the Evans parking lot using Hamilton Street.
"This new flow of traffic, opening Hamilton, is for the safety of the kids," Principal Dave Harper said. "Right now, with parents trying to drop off or pick up on Ferry Street, kids are darting between cars. Now we can provide a safe means to arrive and leave for those 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon."
And it will keep personal vehicles and buses separate during the busiest times of day. In addition, staff will be keeping an eye out to make sure no one is parking in the fire lanes.
Once inside the school building, Harper says students are going to find a great environment in which to learn and grow.
"We're going to have a great year at Evans Middle School. I told Dr. Eidahl that when we look at this facility and this staff, there's no reason we can't shoot for the moon and reach it," he said.
New traffic flow at Evans Middle School
• Before school - Yellow school buses will drop off seventh- and eighth-grade students in front of the gym doors and sixth-grade students in front of the auditorium doors on Chester Avenue. Sixth-grade parents only may drop students off directly in front of the auditorium. Seventh- and eighth-grade parents may drop students off on Evans Boulevard. No parking will be allowed.
• During school (8:10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.), parents must pick up or drop off students in front of the main entrance.
• After school (2:45-3:15 p.m.), yellow buses will load students in front of the school from the corner of Chester Avenue and Ferry Street to the school parking lot. Parent pick-up for all students is located south and west of the main entrance on Evans Boulevard.
• Please do not drop off or pick up your child on Ferry Street. This is a safety concern with the amount of traffic on that road.
• No vehicles will be allowed to park in the fire lane by the main entrance.