VALPARAISO | The School Board has heard the reports from consultants on where the student population will be in the coming years and what needs to be done with its buildings to provide its students with a 21st century education.
Now it wants Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Michael Berta to apply his experience and expertise to take that information and provide it with his concepts of what needs to be done with the buildings.
Board President Mark Maassel asked Berta at last week's meeting to submit his ideas for discussion and public input at the board's April 24 meeting. Maassel stressed the board is only interested in gathering input and is not ready to make any decisions on its facilities.
"This is where we will start, not where we are going to end up," he said.
Calling the studies phase one, Maassel said they gathered information on what the district has and what its needs are in addition to finding out where the new students will be living so the board can prepare for them. The next step will be to decide how to move forward to the next phase.
"We want to seek input from the community and create the ability to hear what's going on," he said. "We're really looking for a chance for the board and the community to listen and learn. We also need to focus. We need to think about the buildings and how we deal with the challenges we have in our buildings."
Once the board has Berta's ideas, Maassel said it could take two meetings to hear from the public on "what they like and how do we make it stronger."
Board member Paul Knauff said of Maassel's request for input from Berta, "Public input is very important, and having something to begin with is good."
"We've talked in general terms for a year, and it's time to drill down to something more concrete," board member Jim Jorgensen said. "Two meetings could be just the start of the discussion."
"This makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels as long as everybody realizes this is just the starting point," board member James Sarkisian said. "It's important for the folks to come out and tell us what they think. We know one thing for certain: This will not be a situation where we make a decision and it's done. We need to be on the same page."
Maassel said, "We are not in decision-making mode, but we do need a starting point. This is about a process that brings us to a decision. We have to think hard about pre-kindergarten as well."
"The heat is on," Berta said in accepting the assignment.