The Ottumwa Courier

June 11, 2013

School district to build new offices

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — A penny really can make a difference — especially when you're bringing in millions of them. That's how the Ottumwa school district is paying for multiple building projects, which will include a new central office.

"Our [year] 2020 Vision is how we would best spend that 1-cent statewide sales tax money that goes toward upgrading our facilities," said Superintendent Davis Eidahl on Tuesday.

The school board on Monday had approved the purchase of land for the new office building, which houses administrators and support personnel who implement policies, hire employees, pay the bills and do many of the other behind-the-scenes operations necessary to keep more than 4,000 kids in class.

"Pickwick was in the worst shape of our [district] buildings," said Eidahl. "By building Liberty, we've taken care of that need. The next building on that list in need of improvements was the central office."

The plan involves moving some pieces of the puzzle around: In 2014, when Douma reopens, all K-1 students will go there. That will leave Agassiz and Wildwood empty. The district will then use Agassiz as the location for the districtwide preschool.

"For children that age, we're required to keep them on ground level. Everything has to be on the main floor," Eidahl said.

At Agassiz, there are enough classrooms, the cafeteria/gym and the library all on the first level. With no preschool at the McCarroll site, that'll leave just a few administrators in a very large building in need of extensive renovation. Other buildings have been considered for a main office. The best choice, the school has decided, is a new building.

"We're going to be conservative with the building because we know our money is best spent in classrooms. We're talking about maybe a 5,000-square-foot building," said Eidahl.

They got a great deal on the land, which was owned by the Area Education Agency in Ottumwa. The lot will cost the district $1. Eidahl said the initial estimate from the architect came in at $700,000 for construction.

"The land is the west part of the current AEA parking lot. It's on the frontage road. We're taking the front part of their parking lot. It came with their building when they purchased it, and we think it'd be a great location for a central office," he said. "Many people visit central office, and we want it to be a reflection of the first-class education students are getting. We want to blend, but we also want a first-class facility."

Families considering moving to Ottumwa, either with children who will attend school or because they want to work at the schools, will see this new building on the way into town.

"The location right on the frontage road was very attractive. It's visible, it's accessible, it will give a great first impression," Eidahl said.

As for the new school slated for the north side of town, "we're probably four to five years away," he said.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark.