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Older schools present challenges, Valpo consultant says

Updated: January 9, 2014 6:20AM

VALPARAISO — A consultant’s take on the state of the school buildings went before residents Wednesday night, and many of the older schools didn’t fare well under the options presented by Gibraltar Design of Indianapolis, especially the 1939 Central Elementary School.

Jim Thompson, president of Gibraltar, said the presentation showed “no opinion at this point other than I presented the challenges.”

His company will make another presentation in January, based on input at Wednesday’s school board meeting and from feedback after the draft goes on the school corporation’s website.

According to Gibraltar’s presentation, Central averages 300 square feet less per class than Flint Lake Elementary School.

Central would also be difficult to alter because it uses load-bearing masonry walls, plaster and glazed facing tile inside the building.

“Although the elements of construction are durable, they’re not very easily changed,” Thompson said.

It would take a lot of money to update what Gibraltar sees as the need for 21st century classes.

That includes room for collaborative learning.

The plan also brought up the idea of building a new high school on a minimum of 80 acres and transferring the middle schools to the current building.

Preliminary recommendations included:

Elementary school renovations, additions and new construction with Cooks Corners, Parkview and Central singled out.

High school renovations, additions and new construction, although board president Mark Maassel said demographics do not show a significant increase in students in the future.

Middle school maintenance and modifications.

Career center renovations, additions, new construction or a move to the high school except for auto classes.

Resident Chris Pupillo said the state rates Central Elementary higher than Flint Lake Elementary, a modern school not 20 years old.

Thompson said 80 percent of learning comes from teachers and parents, “but why would you want to limit what students experience” in the school environment.

He said studies show light and space affect learning.

Gibraltar will incorporate board feedback and input from the plan posted on the school corporation’s website before completing the list and getting preliminary costs on improvements.

Maassel said any move the board takes would require a voter referendum, but that won’t be in 2014 and probably not even as late as 2015.

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