Indianapolis-Based Charter School Will Take Over Former Tarkington Elementary Building
A state committee has chosen a charter school to take over South Bend’s Tarkington Elementary School building, which the school board voted to close earlier this year.
The move comes under an Indiana law that requires districts to sell or lease closed buildings to charter schools for $1. A committee of charter school authorizers was appointed to determine what school would be allowed to move into the former Tarkington space.
For the first time, two charter schools were vying for the building – Career and Success Academy, which already operates schools in South Bend, and Indianapolis-based Paramount Schools of Excellence.
The state committee said Tuesday they appreciated that Career Academy already has a presence in South Bend. But ultimately, they were more impressed with Paramount’s academic track record and level of community engagement.
“As a past school administrator, when I interviewed people and then I talked to references, I wanted to hear the words ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding,’” Brett Boggs, former superintendent of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, said. “As we listened to parents and various people who testified on behalf of Paramount, those words we heard over and over again.”
Officials from both schools made their pitches to the state committee at a meeting last week, where over three-quarters of the public comments were in favor of Paramount. Committee Chair Lisa Edwards said that support is what is most important for charter schools to consider.
“We do need to make sure our communities and our schools and our parents and our students are supportive of the schools that they attend, and that they’re not just being forced to because it’s in close proximity or this is their only option,” Edwards said.
Paramount currently operates three schools in the Indianapolis area, and is expanding to an online academy in the fall. Officials said in their presentation that expanding to South Bend is part of their five-year plan to serve over 3,000 students by 2025.
Paramount’s $3.5 million-plan for the Tarkington building includes interior and exterior renovations, a new playground and the addition of a goat barn, coffee shop and cheesemaking room.
More than its plan for the facility, Edwards said Paramount’s academic success set it apart – she said based on the data she had seen, Paramount was comparable to some of the top schools in Indianapolis.
“It’s not just about the beautiful location and, ‘We’re doing all these great, fun things,’” Edwards said. “Can these students read, write, think analytically, understand what’s coming towards them academically? And being able to persist year to year successfully.”
Career Academy officials said they would use the Tarkington building to offer space to more students. They also planned to seek a grant or loan to conduct $1.8 million worth of building renovations.
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