At the foundation of a thriving community one will find effective schools. Schools are the heartbeat of the community. Business and real estate professionals have emphasized this important correlation repeatedly over the years.
Often, the opinions and positions people have on educational topics vary significantly. Interestingly, one’s opinion and position may be driven by variables such as age, economic stature and one’s own experiences while a student. Learning is a personal experience and thus results in personal and individual perspectives about the place we call school.
Currently, Valparaiso Community Schools has embarked on a facility planning study of its eight elementary schools, two middle schools, high school and the Porter County Career and Technical Education School.
This study is educationally based. That is, it involves identifying teaching and learning activities projected to prepare the K-12 learner for the 21st century. Information continuously flows from the research being done on the 21st century learner. Add this information to the constant evolution of technology and the challenge of school facility planning is defined.
School architects and engineers have helped evaluate how well the district's buildings can accommodate 21st century learning and technology. Likewise, a demographer has been employed to forecast student population patterns. The demographer applies formulas to Valparaiso data such as census, student enrollments over time, and birth rates. Forecasts are then produced for student enrollment patterns for the next five to 10 years.
This is very helpful in the facility planning process.
In addition, a school district strategic plan was completed in 2011. A district accreditation team is working to align the results of the district strategic plan with the facility planning process.
The district will be seeking residents' input to define facility needs. The School Board will ultimately be responsible to decide facility design, new construction or renovation, consolidation of facilities or no consolidation, and the matter of neighborhood schools. As always, finances will be critical to the entire outcome. Thus, community involvement is important and appreciated.
Planning for students' future learning activities as well as designing the schools for teaching and learning is important for the well being of the entire community. As this planning process proceeds in Valparaiso, be involved in scheduled opportunities to learn about improving schools. Likewise, participate in upcoming sessions as they are scheduled by stating your ideas. Refer to the Valparaiso Community Schools website, www.valpo.k12.in.us, to learn of facility planning sessions.
The goal is to create these places we call school to be centers of learning, activities and pride for the Valparaiso community.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.