OTTUMWA — A new grant application has teachers at one school feeling optimistic.

Gary Gullion, principal at Eisenhower Elementary School, said the idea of an expansion, “has been on the wish list for a long time.”

“We’re excited about the ... opportunity to get rid of [our three] mobiles,” he said Wednesday.

The modular units, or “mobiles,” are small, separate spaces designed to handle an overflow of students. He said the three units have been there as long as he can remember.

The district is looking for nearly $1 million as part of an Iowa [School] Construction Grant program in order to fund an expansion at Eisenhower.

Superintendent Tom Rubel pointed out that though enrollment at Eisenhower is up, the money is not a sure thing.

“On occasion, we get the opportunity to apply for grants,” said Rubel. “If we get the grant, we’ll put a plan together to see how we’ll spend those dollars at Eisenhower.”

But even if that money doesn’t appear, the district has plans for maintenance and improvement of all its buildings.

“We’re starting to make plans on how we reinvest our one-cent sales tax, and Eisenhower, and all the schools in the district, will be included in those plans,” said Rubel.

Ideally, the district would someday not have any modular units, he added.

“Modulars are not the best in my opinion,” said the superintendent. “They’re not attached to the building, not very energy efficient; they’re hard to heat or cool.”

“A lot of it boils down to the quality of the space,” said Gullion. “We’ve all been excited about the prospect of adding on good quality space to our school.”

Not that the mobile units are of poor quality, the educators said; there are just better environments for learning.

“When we have a classroom that is well-lighted, and properly heated or cooled, kids feel better about their classroom space and so do teachers,” said Rubel.

Besides, when it’s cold, students have to walk outside to get to the modular classrooms.

“One of the drawbacks with the mobiles is they’re all very separated,” explained Gullion. “It doesn’t allow you to feel that you can tie in all the classes and specials (like art or music) you have each day.”

Mark Newman can be reached at 683-5358 or by e-mail at mgnewman@mchsi.com.

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