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ECS presents redistricting plan for potential Hawthorne closure

HawthorneFB.jpg
Hawthorne Elementary Facebook page
Dating back to 1929, Hawthorne is ECS's oldest elementary school building.

Elkhart Community Schools officials presented a redistricting plan Tuesday that would take effect if the school board votes to close Hawthorne Elementary School.

ECS officials announced plans to close Hawthorne and repurpose it as a pre-K learning hub back in January, citing declining enrollment and staff shortages.

The plan calls for the pre-K program at Mary Beck Elementary to relocate to the newest part of the Hawthorne building, where it would be expanded. It would also create a “community services hub” in the older part of the building, but the school board has yet to vote on the proposal.

Under the redistricting plan presented to the school board Tuesday, 335 Hawthorne students would be moved to Roosevelt Elementary, 66 to Monger and 96 to Daly.

But to maintain student-to-teacher ratios, the plan would also move 300 students out of Roosevelt Elementary.

The majority — 190 students — would move to Beck Elementary. The remaining 110 students live in the Washington Gardens apartment complex. Sixty of those students would also attend Beck, while 34 would move to Riverview and 16 would move to Beardsley.

Officials said 13 Hawthorne teachers would initially be placed at Roosevelt Elementary and seven at Beck, making both schools’ student-to-teacher ratios approximately 20:1.

However, some community members spoke against the plan Tuesday. Michelle Troutman, a third-grade teacher at Hawthorne, said the effect on Roosevelt Elementary hadn’t been mentioned at any of the district’s three community meetings last month.

“I don’t feel like the parents at Roosevelt were notified of this, that their school would be affected very seriously,” she said. “Roosevelt is part of our southside community, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just like our Hawthorne families.”

Other attendees spoke against the Hawthorne closure in general, including Fifth District Councilman Brent Curry.

“Hawthorne School is in the heart of my district, so many people have called me with some of their concerns,” he said. “I don’t have a vote in this matter, but I’m very concerned about what happens. And whatever happens, I hope you do it for our kids and do it for Elkhart.”

The district is currently exploring vendors for a feasibility study to determine the impact of the closure. Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said that process is likely to take 6 to 8 months.

In the meantime, Thalheimer said the administration plans to hold public meetings about the redistricting plan in the coming weeks.

Elkhart Community Schools is the licensee of WVPE.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.