ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU)- On Thursday, the Elkhart community had its first chance to give input on what to call the new, unified Elkhart high school.
This decision process is all part of the merger between Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial in 2021. Everyone gets a chance to submit a possible new name, school colors, mascot and even a nickname for the mascot.
This is all part of the Elkhart Community School's five year plan to re-structure the school system. Last year the board voted to approve the merger. Now, the high school will become part of the current Elkhart Memorial building serving grades 10 through 12. The current Elkhart Central building will soon serve as a stand-alone freshman academy along with sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The merger is going to take help from the community.
"We're looking to get as much community input as we can," said James Rieckhoff, the chairman of the adhoc naming committee. "We're hoping that the respondents will give us as many ideas as they have. We're not suggesting anything."
Those at Thursday's meeting at the Tolson Center wanted to keep their submissions to themselves. Some were excited about the merger.
"When I first came into the system 16 years ago I always questioned why there wasn't one high school like this," said Dave Hicks, an Elkhart Central world geography and U.S. history. "As I went through I saw the separation in the community and I thought looking at things financially there's a lot of pull going two different ways."
"I came out to check it out and see what's being said and we will take it back and let our congregation know so in the next meeting we'll be in more power," said Pastor Danny Brown from Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church. "It's just important for us to come together to make a decision."
Submission forms are in English and Spanish to get feedback from the entire community.
"We're hoping by the end of April we'll be able to have all the evaluation done and the sorting of each suggestion on each of the four categories," said Rieckhoff.
Ultimately, the students will get to vote once the categories are sorted down to 5-7 ideas to choose from. The adhoc naming committee is made up of current and former students, teachers and community members.
The board wants to preserve the history of the schools.
"One of the things the committee is very concerned about is not losing the history of the three Elkhart high schools," said Rieckhoff. "Central, Memorial and its predecessor, Elkhart High School. At a later time the schools are going to be seeking to get memorabilia, artifacts, books, whatever relating to the schools in an attempt to put them together into a single place so the history isn't lost."
"I think it's going to bring a lot of the community back to what people told me it was like beforehand and I think it'll be a great thing," said Hicks.
An eighth grader on the board said some of her peers are upset about the merger because they can't follow their parents' legacies, but the ones who are excited are ready for the change.
If you couldn't make it to Thursday's meeting, don't worry. There will be two more meetings on Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church/Trinity on Jackson and Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at North Side Middle School.
If none of those times work for you, submissions are also accepted electronically at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ecsmascot. You can also pick up forms at all ECS schools.
All ideas will be accepted until March 16 at 3 p.m. On Thursday, over 350 ideas had been submitted electronically already.
A final decision is expected in early June.