Change is the word in the Ottumwa School District this year

From Evans Middle School to OHS, students in Ottumwa are back to hitting the books starting August 21. Change is the word this school year, with Douma Elementary currently under construction and kindergarten and first-graders attending Agassiz and Wildwood Elementaries until the renovation is complete.

When it is, putting grade-alike teachers under one roof will allow the district to focus on collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.

"Plus we could saturate our learning support - our title intervention teachers, our ELL teachers, our special education teachers - saturate those teachers under one roof so that we can really focus on eliminating any learning deficits prior to the students leaving first grade," said Ottumwa Superintendent Dr. Davis Eidahl.

Of course, the big news this year is Liberty Elementary, a state-of-the-art building that will soon welcome its first class of students.

"Liberty Elementary truly defines the Ottumwa Community School District," Eidahl said. "It's a first-class building and I know it's going to be really a wonderful asset in our community."

There's always challenges, some of the toughest of which include keeping up to state and federal standards and getting every student proficient in reading, math and science, but the district is making strides to make sure every student is equipped with the knowledge they need on graduation day.

"Wilson Elementary School, which has been an assigned school in math, has been removed because of the progress that they've made; incredible achievement," Eidahl said. "James Elementary, they've placed on the delay status in both reading and math because of the progress in academic achievement, but it continues to be a challenge to meet those lofty standards."

The district has also made strides in improving school culture and will continue to work on that goal throughout the year. There are also many exciting things to come, like the start of a $1.3 million grant given to the Ottumwa School District from the Legacy Foundation.

"This is year one in the implementation of our technology, which is going to put much more technology into the hands of our teachers, greater access for our students and so we're excited about the increased technology that will be throughout all of our classrooms in all of our buildings for our students as just another tool for delivery of curriculum," said Eidahl.

A public open house will be held on Thursday, September 5 from 5-7 p.m. for anyone wishing to tour Liberty Elementary.