Pella Chronicle

July 3, 2013

Ready for school

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The sound of construction still seems to be coming from that 99,000-square-foot school off Mary Street — the school scheduled to open next month.

"Everything will be ready," said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of the Ottumwa school district. "In fact, we're in very good shape. We've already started moving all the instructional material into the building, and furniture will begin arriving next week."

He confirmed there is still construction going on.

"They've worked back to front and are now at the front of the building. They are doing some work in the cafeteria, and the area near the office has to be finished, but we're getting close," Eidahl said. "They're basically doing final trim work indoors. Outside, we have the playground pads poured and will have equipment, all brand new, when [school starts]."

The playground cement will first be surfaced with a comparatively soft, interlocking set of mats. Some landscaping will be done, too, though that will be a continuing project.

"Right before the end of the school year, we only had the fourth- and fifth-grade learning centers completed, and we took all [Liberty] teachers through those," Eidahl said.

All of the wings, second grade through fifth grade, are now complete. The estimate for the student population this year is 720 kids.

That means there will be a lot of school buses, and a lot of parents, trying to get in and out of the property weekday mornings and afternoons. Educators and the architects already discussed the safest ways to direct traffic. Now the trick will be showing drivers how to get in and out safely and efficiently.

"We'll put a lot of energy and manpower into helping parents learn the routine and [traffic] flow those first weeks," Eidahl said.

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

Who's your pal?

OTTUMWA -- Ottumwa's largest elementary school will have a larger front-office staff.

"Because of the size, we're actually going to staff it with two principals," said Davis Eidahl, Ottumwa school superintendent.

Liberty Elementary School is scheduled to open in August with the students from Douma, Agassiz and Pickwick elementary schools. That's more than 700 children.

The first principals at Liberty are Missy Carson-Roark, previously principal at Horace Mann Elementary School, and Dawn Sievertsen, most recently at James Elementary School.

"Each brings unique strengths, strengths that compliment each other," Eidahl said.

Though Liberty has four grades (second through fifth) attending, the principals won't split the building up, Eidahl said.

"There will be a team approach. It will be one building, one team. It will not be divided."

What about Ottumwa's southside principals? They're still needed, said Eidahl, and will take over northside schools left without a principal due to the opening of Liberty and the resignation of one administrator. Jeff Hendred, formerly at Douma, will be principal at Horace Mann. Jay Green, who ran both Wildwood and Pickwick elementary schools, will be back at James Elementary School. Dana Warnecke, the longtime principal at Agassiz Elementary School, will take over at Eisenhower.