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Indian Hills and Ottumwa Schools break ground on new housing initiative

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 9:23 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - A new housing initiative broke ground Tuesday as Indian Hills Community College and Ottumwa Schools are working together to build a house in a year.

The heads of Ottumwa Schools and Indian Hills are saying the house built at 10 Traxler Drive will fulfill two needs. Superintendent Mike McGrory says “there’s such a need for people who work in construction, so we’re providing our community a resource.” As well as providing low income housing in Ottumwa, according to Indian Hills President Dr. Matt Thompson: “I think there’s a real interest in trying to grow the housing stock in this community: we need it.”

The program is new for Ottumwa Schools, though Indian Hills has had similar program at other campuses, mainly their Centerville Campus. Juniors and seniors at the high school will enroll in the 2 year program and graduate not only with a G.E.D., but with a construction diploma as well. It’s part of the school district’s new Career Technical Education expansion, hosted at the newly-named Career Campus.

And Superintendent McGrory says students have shown interest - the program is nearly at capacity. “For the first year, to have that many students, we’re just really excited about that.”

Students will work on most parts of the house, certain elements will get subcontracted, like electrical, plumbing, and basement work. The program’s instructor says that’s to keep things on schedule.

And this house could be just the beginning for the district’s housing plans: McGrory says they’ll build five houses over the next five years while providing students the opportunity to move forward in their career: “If this works well and is profitable, that we can provide those students scholarships to go on for construction.”

According to Dr. Thompson, Indian Hills is looking at expanding their own program in Ottumwa as well. “We hope to be able to move into a program and build a couple houses a year between the two projects.”

The district and college aren’t funding the project themselves: grants have come in from the Legacy Foundation and Area 15 Planning. McGrory says without that funding, the project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.

Students will begin framing the house when school starts, beginning the year-long process.

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