Evans Middle School

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school board looked radically different by the end of its meeting Monday night.

It was the last meeting for five of the board’s now-former members, who handed their seats over to their replacements after opening the session.

The board’s five new members — David Weilbrenner, Christina Schark, Jeremy Weller, Morgan Brown, and Brian Jones — were elected earlier this month. They replaced former board members Michael Carpenter, Mike Dalbey, Jon Bunt, Gary Granneman, and Board President Leisa Walker.

The board appointed Weilbrenner and Weller as its new president and vice-president, respectively.

The decision to conduct a land assessment of the Ottumwa Golf and Social Club, which the previous board chose as a potential site for the construction of a north-side elementary school, was delayed by Superintendent Nicole Kooiker. She opted to wait for a final vote on the assessment, since many of the new board members opposed the project during their campaigns.

Several of the members voiced their concerns about the project. Most wanted to cancel the land assessment outright.

“I think going through the campaign process, it was clear most of us don’t want to build a north-side school,” Weller said.

Jeff Bittner, who was on the last board, agreed. He spoke and voted in opposition to the land assessment at the last regular board meeting.

“I don’t think we approached it the right way. I’m not in favor of going ahead,” he said.

“I would say we’re all in agreement to halt the north-side school,” said Weilbrenner.

Kooiker suggested waiting to make a final decision until the board could receive all the appropriate information from Estes Construction and DLR Group, the construction and architecture firms chosen for the project. While some of the members were reluctant, the board agreed to discuss the matter further at its next retreat.

Board members also voted unanimously to allow students from Cardinal High School to participate on Ottumwa High School’s bowling team. The practice of athletic sharing was a major point of controversy for the former board. They voted to reinstate the practice earlier this year, after eliminating it in late 2018.

Sharing agreements must be reviewed each year under the current policy.

It’s not just the board that will look different in the future. The meeting location will change as well. While the schedule will remain the same, with the board meeting at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of every month, the meetings will now be held at Evans Middle School.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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