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Ottumwa Community School District offices

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school board is looking at two potential sites for a new north-side elementary school: the former site of Walsh and the current location of the Ottumwa Golf and Social Club.

The board decided at a previous meeting that a site assessment of the golf course needs to be done before they decide which property to select. The architecture firm hired to design the building, DLR Group, can do the assessment for $12,500. A “menu list” or potential factors to investigate, such as soil and water quality, was given to the board for review.

However, a few members were unhappy with DLR’s report.

“I’m just not sure what we’re getting with our money,” said board member Michael Carpenter.

Carpenter said that many of the factors DLR would investigate are things the district already understands, such as zoning, mapping, and the area’s approximate square footage.

Other members agreed. Many had hoped DLR would provide information about traffic flow, but Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said a second firm that specializes in the subject would need to be brought in to conduct the study. This would cost an additional $18,000-$20,000.

“Did we do a site assessment before we built the preschool?” said Board President Leisa Walker.

Kooiker said an assessment of the former site of Pickwick Elementary hadn’t been necessary because the district already owned and understood the property when it decided to construct the Pickwick Early Childhood Center. An assessment of Walsh wouldn’t be necessary for this same reason.

Because so many board members were uncomfortable with the cost of the assessment for what it provided, the decision was postponed to another meeting. Kooiker will speak more with DLR and see if a less expensive assessment can be done.

The board also discussed building a potential addition onto Pickwick. This would add 10 classrooms, a new multipurpose room, new restrooms, and extra storage space. It would also expand Pickwick’s capacity by about 200 students.

While a few board members raised concerns about a potential increase in traffic, most were happy with the plan. Kooiker pointed out that Pickwick has improved student retention rates, and that, since the current waiting list is so long, the new addition would quickly fill if constructed.

While the board pushed the vote to a later meeting, the deadline to make a decision is Oct. 31.

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

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