Courier Staff Writer
The Ottumwa school board narrowed the list of names for the new elementary school from three to two.
Board members bounced between “Liberty Elementary School” or “Fahrney Elementary School,” though they could not come to a consensus at their meeting Monday night.
“Fahrney was brought up as another name due to all the scholarships the Fahrney family has given to all of the students current and in the past,” said board president Carol Mitchell.
Besides a military and patriotic significance, Liberty has some historical significance in Wapello County.
There used to be a country school in Keokuk Township called Liberty near Forest Lake Camp.
A former school board member, Mary Hoff, also suggested naming the new school after a former board member, Jack Staebler, or an educator, Willis Ahrens.
Board vice president Payson Moreland said he couldn’t think of a more fitting name for the school than Fahrney due to the $5.5 million in scholarships the family has awarded to 2,800 students over the years.
“The thing I like about it is it has meaning,” Moreland said. “Liberty does because it was an old school, but Fahrney has history and meaning to it. I think that’s kind of important.”
Board member Jeff Strunk said he understood the significance of the Fahrney name, but Liberty holds meaning for everyone in the community.
“Liberty, to me, has quite a bit of meaning when you attach it to the military, not just our guard unit, who is doing more than what was probably ever expected of those guard units when they were first established,” Strunk said. “These World War II veterans are dying off by the day, by the month. That word, ‘liberty,’ to them at that time period and to the country meant so much more than I think gets lost in translation of what it really means to people today.”
Another thing to consider, Strunk said, is the young children going to this school only know the United States as a nation at war.
While he said he would not object to the school being named Fahrney, he wanted to let people know why Liberty was not a “dumb name, a ‘blah’ name.”
Both board members Ron Oswalt and Cindy Kurtz-Hopkins said they were on the fence between Fahrney and Liberty.
“I think either name is going to be a good name, so I’m not upset either way we go,” Moreland said.