OTTUMWA — Ottumwa Community School District superintendent Michael McGrory appeared before the city council Tuesday to brief the city officials and Mayor Tom Lazio about the district’s first few days of school.
McGrory, who returned to Ottumwa following a stint with Muscatine schools, said he was thrilled to return to a community where he was once a principal at Evans Middle School.
“It’s a pleasure to be back here, but it’s also a difficult time to come back with all the things going on now,” McGrory said. “Rarely do you get the chance to come back to a place you have such affinity for.”
As for the school district, McGrory said, “We’re off to a great start.”
“We have a lot of students who have come face to face, and about 300 students who chose to do virtual, and that’s going well,” he said. “We’re excited. To be honest, I’m a little surprised we didn’t have more hiccups at the beginning of the year because it’s an unusual year, but it’s gone amazingly well.”
Still, McGrory deflected credit and instead offered it up to people under him.
“I always give a lot of credit to the people that deserve it, our staff and our administrators,” he said. “They’ve made it so smooth.”
McGrory said there is a link on the homepage of the school district’s website that has all the information community members, families and students need as a reference point. The page is updated daily with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and staff by building, as well as the number of students and staff in quarantine.
“We really felt like that was something we wanted to do to be transparent,” he said. “We really want to communicate at a high level.”
Councilman Matt Dalbey was pleased to have the superintendent attend the meeting.
“It’s really refreshing,” he said. “It’s been a long time. I can’t speak for the whole council, but I can speak for a majority in that we’re excited to work with you. It’s a great thing to see it come together.”
Lazio also believed it was positive for both the city and the school district.
“The communication between the school district and the city is already much improved,” he said. “And that’s such an important facet. We’d like to have you come back periodically and give us some updates.
“One of my goals is to have more student involvement in city government,” he said. “At some point, we ought to have a conversation over a cup of coffee about that.”
In other business:
• A resolution was approved for the Historic Preservation Commission to partner with Pixel & Pen Expressionary to design signage for the seven Ottumwa districts that are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Those districts are Greater Second Street, Railroad, Cemetery, Court Hill, Fifth Street Bluff, Vogel Place and North Fellows. The city’s public works department will install the signs to existing posts. The city will contract with Iowa Prison Industries for 25 signs, costing $1,032.50, with the money coming from commission fundraisers.
• The council approved plans for a multi-use safe route to school on Milner Street from Mary Street to Richmond Avenue. The corridor would be part of the Ottumwa Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan to link school systems and southern residential areas to the Greater Ottumwa Park system. The sidewalk would be 8 feet wide and 4,115 feet long and adhere to all Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
• The council approved changes to the Our Ottumwa Comprehensive Plan to reflect the diverse history of the city and update the levies in the city.