VALPARAISO | Changing the physical structure of Central Elementary School would be extremely challenging, an architectural expert told the Valparaiso Community Schools board Wednesday.
James Thompson, president of the Indianapolis-based firm Gibraltar Design Inc., presented further details of a facility feasibility study his firm is conducting on all the district's buildings.
Central Elementary was constructed in 1939 with load-bearing walls and tile and plaster materials, Thompson said.
“While those elements of construction are durable, they are not very easily changed,” he said. “You can make it look nicer, but the physical structure is very challenging.”
There's also the problem of the site itself, if the district wanted to build another school in the same location, Thompson said. Central sits on 1.5 acres and shares a parking lot with a church next door, he said.
Central's classrooms also are not conducive to 21st century teaching, which emphasizes collaboration and self-directed learning, Thompson said.
The classrooms average between 500 and 650 square feet; classrooms at Flint Lake Elementary are about 960 square feet, he said.
“Central is in a good location, but there is not enough space to build a right-size building there,” he said.
Thompson also presented diagrams of what additions to the high school and elementary schools such as Cooks Corners and Parkview might look like.
At the high school, an expansion of classrooms would not dramatically affect the site, he said. Expansion could include science and performing arts areas, and a new pool should be considered because codes have changed, Thompson said.
He said Cooks Corners Elementary could be expanded to serve 500 students by adding a gym and building a two-story addition. For Parkview Elementary, a new gym and entry/administrative area are needed.
Thompson said Gibraltar plans to continue to gather input and present another update to the board in January. Cost estimates for any renovations, additions or new buildings will be provided in the final report, he said.
Superintendent Michael Berta said the process of facility planning involves identifying teaching and learning activities projected to prepare the K-12 learner for the 21st century.
“We need to identify the experience, then design facilities to facilitate what that learning experience will be,” he said.
The district also has hired McKibben Demographics to do a 10-year forecast of student enrollment by geographic area. That report was presented in October and is available on the district's website.
In addition, a district accreditation team is working to align the district's 2011-16 strategic plan to meet the needs of the 21st century learner, Berta said.