Jasper School Board Hears Gibraltar Input on Elementary Future

Earlier this week, the Greater Jasper School Board heard a plan from Indianapolis-based Gibraltar Design on the future of elementary schools in their school corporation, which includes the possibility of closing a current elementary school.

The major findings of Gibraltar centered around the three current elementary schools in the corporation: 5th Street, 10th Street, and Ireland. Gibraltar Design president Jim Thompson told the board that all three elementary schools failed to meet the recommended building size requirements for the current student population. Thompson cited Indiana Department of Education guidelines that found 5th Street school to be 14,000 square feet too small. Using those same standards, 10th Street school was found to be 8,000 square feet too small and Ireland Elementary was found to be 13,500 square feet too small to accomodate the needs of its student population.

Thompson told the board that in primary education, the current trend is lots of individualized learning space for small groups and larger lab areas where project-based learning and teacher collaboration can take place. Currently, no such individualized spaces or lab areas exist at any of the three elementary school buildings.

Thompson presented three construction options during the meeting, any of which if adopted would close 10th Street Elementary. Thompson explained to the board that Gibralar’s recommendations for the future don’t include 10th Street elementary because of its limitations on expansion, limitations that include the school not owning little if any of the land surrounding the school, limited parking, and student drop-off being on a city street.

The first option for the future presented by Gibraltar is to create three kindergarten through fifth grade elementary schools. This would be done through closing 10th Street, expanding both 5th Street and Ireland Elementaries to be able to house a combined total of 1,000 students, and building a brand new, third elementary that would house 500 students. This plan would cost about $34.5 million by Gibraltar’s estimates, but there would have to also be changes to the storm water diversion system at Fifth Street as well as a new driveway for Ireland in order to divert traffic off of busy streets.

The second option would be the cheapest of the three options at $28 million and would involve closing 10th Street, converting 5th Street into a two-story building with room for a 700 student capacity and expanding Ireland Elementary along its east and south sides.

The third option presented would close both 10th and 5th Street elementaries and would expand Ireland Elementary to a capacity of 600 students. A second building, which would house 900 students, would be constructed. This proposal comes with a $31.5 million price tag.

No decisions on any proposals were made during this week’s meeting. The board will consider repairs to current buildings, such as heating, ventilation, roof, and plumbing upgrades in the meantime while a new configuration for the elementary schools is figured out.