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Ottumwa Schools announces $13 million dollar investment, new direction for the district

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 9:33 PM CST
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - During a Thursday press conference, Ottumwa School’s superintendent, Mike McGrory, said a watershed period is coming for the district. That was before he announced several new endeavors centered around the theme of personalizing learning experiences and making lasting connections with students.

The first is an investment worth $13 million to renovate several school buildings. $8 million will go to north side elementary schools, while $5 million will go to south side elementary schools along with Ottumwa High School and Evans Middle School. The move comes in an effort to lower class sizes and promote a small-school feel. The large investment will be paid for by the local option sales tax in Wapello County.

“Our goal is to be the best school district in Iowa. I think the investments that we are talking about today will take us a long ways down that road of making it happen,” said Mike McGrory.

The district is planning to post several new job openings, including putting more guidance counselors inside each elementary school, hiring diversity advocates to help students who are still learning English, and work experience coordinators for students with disabilities. Ottumwa School District is hoping that by lowering student to teacher ratios, positive connections will be made with more students and drop out rates will fall.

“If we’re running senior classes of about 300 to 330, and our graduation rate is above 90%, we’re still losing 30 kids a year. It takes one adult in the school setting to keep a kid who is already at risk, from dropping out,” said Vern Reed, the district’s at-risk intervention coordinator.

Ottumwa Schools is also in the process of completing an addition worth $5.5 million to Pickwick Preschool, while strengthening security measures district-wide with ‘secure entrances’ and enhanced surveillance. Mike McGrory says he’s looking forward to changing the way people look at the district.

“I think we have clearly made a statement. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is. And we’re going to do whatever it takes to eradicate any perceptions that people have about our school district,” McGrory said.

Ottumwa School District plans on implementing these actions immediately.

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