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Many Monterey residents have been lamenting the impending emptiness of Monterey Elementary School following the news in May that the school would close and its students become part of Culver Elementary School.
If Eugene Berg of Monterey has his way, the halls of MES could echo with students once more.
This time, however, Berg hopes the building can be home to a private Christian school, a project he says heâ€™s been contemplating for the past five years or so.
Berg, a 1990 graduate of Indiana University South Bendâ€™s education program, taught for five years in an alternative school, seven years at a Christian school (one of which was as its director), and has worked in several other capacities related to education. As news of legislative changes in Indiana made it apparent that tax dollars would be made available for vouchers towards private schooling for children in the Hoosier state -- and as word spread that school systems around the state might be required to lease unused school buildings to non-profit or educational endeavors for a low fee -- Berg says he began to think, last year, that the time might be right.
â€śI have a love and passion for education,â€ť he says. â€śAnd as a Christian I feel thereâ€™s always a need for quality Christian education.
â€śMy son went through Christian education (for) many years, but graduated from Culver High School. Heâ€™s now in his second year of college, and he did quite well. But I have seen others come through (Christian education, who) have just excelled. I tell people, the Christian education I would offer, any student who would go through...would at least exceed (the performance of) their public school counterparts. With the low numbers of students, we can offer one on one help...and even tutoring help.â€ť
Recently, Berg gave Culver Community School board members a letter outlining his ideas and seeking discussion about the possibility of using the Monterey school building.
However, Berg acknowledges there are â€śa lot of unknowns about vouchersâ€ť and various other details of the new legislation. While heâ€™s still investigating the matter, Berg says it appears the state requires students to have been attending public schools for two semesters or more in order to receive voucher funds, â€śwhich disqualifies anyone younger (than school age prior to this year), or anyone homeschooled or in private school currently. The only students (eligible for vouchers) would be current public school students. Thatâ€™s great, but most of the parents Iâ€™ve talked to fall into that first category of younger kids.â€ť
However, Berg says he believes there are parents with children currently in public schools who would like to enroll them in private, Christian education.
Verbal support as heâ€™s spoken to parents and residents has been strong, says Berg, and heâ€™s secured a grant writer as well as the support of the pastor of the Monterey United Methodist Church, who has â€śbeen quite a lot of helpâ€ť and offered the church basement as a temporary space for the school to get its start. He hopes to get a base group of students committed to the school concept in order to move forward with formalizing creation of the school itself.
â€śIâ€™m a little disheartened with some of the news (concerning legislative restrictions), but Iâ€™m not giving up,â€ť notes Berg. â€śI will continue to press on, though weâ€™re getting down to the wire on time for this (fall) semester.â€ť
Heâ€™s willing to keep at it as long as some parents continue to encourage the idea, he says, and heâ€™ll â€śtry to make it happenâ€ť even if the school takes shape in earnest a few years down the road, rather than immediately.
Berg welcomes input and questions from interested persons, and may be reached by phone at 574-542-4719, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project also has a Facebook page, under â€śMonterey Christian School.â€ť