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Valpo superintendent recommends school realignments

Updated: May 29, 2014 6:16AM



VALPARAISO — Superintendent Mike Berta has advised the Valparaiso Community Schools to build a new high school, close Central Elementary School and rearrange grades to make a fifth and sixth grade intermediate school.

The other seven elementary schools would remain neighborhood schools but would require renovations — some needing major renovations.

Berta also recommended hiring staff that’s been reduced because of budgets. Berta presented his recommendations to remake the schools for 21st Century Learning at Thursday’s School Board intending open a dialogue before his July retirement.

There will be three public meetings starting May 5. The exact time and places have not been determined.

“I would suspect there are many more and better ideas than I put up here,” Berta said.

Berta said that Valparaiso Community Schools needs to encourage collaboration among the staff with both physical space that allows working together and for professional development together. He also recommended hiring learning assistants, guidance staff and mental health staff support staff that dwindled through layoffs and attrition.

Students have more allergies, medicines and problems and “our medical staff is minimally meeting the needs,” he said.

He suggested hiring foreign language teachers and starting foreign language learning in elementary school or possibly preschool.

Should the district build a new high school, the old one could become a home to the Porter County Career Center and its satellite schools in Hebron and Portage, an intermediate school for fifth and sixth grades and a senior center.

The two middle schools would house seventh and eight grades.

He recommended selling the administration offices and its land to move administration into Central Elementary, and the elementary schools would get proper gyms, cafeterias with kitchens, security measures and preschool space, including for staff’s children.

Residents have advocated strongly for retaining neighborhood schools instead of building consolidated schools, and Central neighborhood families have rallied around that, but the school was built in the early 20th century with load-bearing walls.

“I don’t know how I could recommend that building continue with 21st century education.,” Berta said.

Board Members Jim Jorgensen and James Sarkisian said they weren’t ready to write off Central without exploring more possibilities.



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