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WVPE News

South Bend Schools facilities task force holds first public meeting

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Gemma DiCarlo
/
WVPE News
Planning consultant Tracy Richter speaks to the school corporation's facilities task force at the St. Joseph County Public Library on Wednesday, June 15.

The South Bend Community School Corporation’s facilities master plan task force met in public for the first time Wednesday. The group is charged with helping “right-size” the district’s secondary schools following years of declining enrollment.

The task force has met before, but Indiana’s public access counselor advised that the meetings should be public after inquiries from the South Bend Tribune.

“This isn’t supposed to be behind closed doors — it’s supposed to open,” planning consultant Tracy Richter said Wednesday. “But… there’s so many options out there that still needs worked through that it’s complicated to talk about everything at once.”

Last month, consulting firm Fanning Howey presented three potential options to correct underutilized space in South Bend schools.

Two of those options would turn Clay International Academy into a 6-12 school and repurpose the existing Clay High School building into either a sports complex or career and technical education center — a proposal that has caused tension in the Clay community.

The third option would keep all high schools in their current buildings, but make two of those high schools 6-12. Edison Middle School would consolidate into Clay High School, and Jackson would consolidate into Riley.

Richter said survey results showed that respondents didn’t like the idea of combining middle and high school students. Community members have also expressed strong support for students attending their closest neighborhood school.

Richter said that feedback will likely make its way into Fanning Howey’s final proposals, but he said realigning schools could help the district strengthen its magnet and CTE programs and create clear pathways for students.

“The first answer to declining enrollment isn’t increasing enrollment — the first answer is to stop the decrease,” he said. “And you don’t stop the decrease when programs are so scattered that the feeders aren’t aligned the right way.”

Richter also offered next steps for the facilities plan — he said the firm plans to make initial proposals to the school board next Wednesday, and will then begin a review of the district’s elementary school data.

He said the team plans to re-engage with the community in late summer and early fall, then present a comprehensive vision for the district’s schools in October or November.

“The feedback we hear from the community has a big influence on our next stage. The data that we have has a big influence on the next stage,” Richter said. “They both do, and we can’t ignore it.”

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

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