Valpo board still considering school changes

2014-03-06T21:22:00Z 2014-03-06T22:12:12Z Valpo board still considering school changesBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso Community Schools board got a look at more of the preliminary concepts of what will be needed to provide a 21st century education Thursday.

James Thompson, president of Gibraltar Design, said the final decisions on how the board will meet the needs of its students in the coming century will have an effect on every building and almost every square foot of those buildings. The specifics of defining what the educational needs will be are being worked out as part of the district's accreditation process.

Thompson's presentation covered all the elementary schools, listing the challenges and the improvements needed at least in terms of additional space. Central Elementary provides the toughest challenge because it has no room to expand. New gymnasiums were a feature of most of the schools along with additional classroom space.

In some cases the classrooms were designated for kindergarten use or general classrooms and some had both. He said the additions were only part of the work needed at each building. Each also would have to be renovated and updated to meet current and future technology needs.

He described the ideal elementary as one housing 350 to 550 students. The additions Gibraltar suggested would add space for about 100 students at each school. The specifics of the needed improvements and the estimated costs are yet to come.

Board member Jim Jorgensen asked Thompson to take one elementary and detail what interior changes will be needed as part of the modernization in addition to the costs. Board member Carl Cender said he would like to see an estimate of the cost of a new high school to compare with the cost of renovating the existing building.

A new high school is one option the board will consider, which Thompson said would allow for realigning grade levels. The high school would become a middle school and the existing middle schools would become intermediate schools for grades four through six. Board President Mark Maassel asked that staff and the administration provide their thoughts on such a realignment for the board.

"The purpose of the Gibraltar study is to help us think about what is best for the community based on a variety of factors (including cost)," Maassel said. "We all know cost is going to be a big issue."

No deadline has been set for Gibraltar to complete its work, and the board will combine its recommendations with demographic studies on student population growth and the accreditation team's work as well as public input before making a final decision, he said.

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