Consultant offers early look at Valparaiso schools facilities study
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent March 6, 2014 11:40PM
Updated: April 11, 2014 6:11AM
VALPARAISO — All eight of the city’s elementary schools would need upgrades to keep up with modern learning — with Central Elementary being the most problematic.
Valparaiso High School should also get extensive renovations or be rebuilt, but the middle schools would only need minor improvements.
The Gibraltar Design organization of Indianapolis presented these parts of their facilities study at Thursday’s school board study session.
Gibraltar President James Thompson presented options to the board in a study that has no set end date yet.
Board President Mark Maassel said that the board is not planning a direction on the plans yet or considering costs, and community input meetings similar to the Big Idea meetings held in February for the city’s 20-year Valpo Next plan could be an option.
“No one has made any decisions on these things,” Massel said. “We didn’t want to lead with costs. We wanted people to think about what we need, what we have.”
The high school could be turned into a middle school, while a new high school would be built, Gibraltar also suggested.
If that’s done, the existing middle schools could become home to grades four and five, or those grades could go to the high school as an intermediary school.
Maassel said the board and residents should discuss before any construction begins whether the schools divided by kindergarten to fifth, sixth to eighth, and ninth through 12th grade is optimal for modern education.
Thompson said 21st century schools should be safe and secure, have technology infrastructure and have “agile” spaces that can switch between small group and large group usage.
Central Elementary is limited because of the load-bearing walls keeping classrooms about 300 square feet smaller than newer classrooms and has limited space for construction — there would be no room for a playground.
Gibraltar’s presentation should be on the school’s website by the end of Friday, and a previous demographics study is already on the site.
Also at the meeting, Maassel said the board may have something to announce in the superintendent search by mid-March.
The committee made of residents and community leaders is making its decisions, and the board will look at all the applications, too.