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Charter schools operator wants to buy Clay High when it closes

Save Clay spokesman Pete Agostino announces at a press conference Wednesday in front of Clay High School that the Ch
Jeff Parrott/WVPE
Save Clay spokesman Pete Agostino announces at a press conference Wednesday in front of Clay High School that businessman Larry Garatoni's Career Academy network wants to buy the school when it closes at the end of this school year.

Clay High School is set for permanent closure this spring but those hoping to save it, or at least some version of it, have new hope.

A South Bend charter school operator wants to buy the former Clay High School once the South Bend Community Schools close it for good at the end of this school year.

A group led by businessman Larry Garatoni made the announcement this morning at a press conference in front of the school.

Garatoni already operates two charter schools in South Bend, Success Academy and Career Academy, and plans to open a new high school downtown, Portage School of Leaders, next fall.

The new school would be called Clay Academy High School.

The South Bend school board in April voted to close Clay High after the end of this school year, citing declining enrollment and the building’s renovation needs.

Save Clay spokesman Pete Agostino said when Garatoni and the Career Academy network expressed interest, buying the school seemed like the best option.

"Charter schools are public schools," Agostino said. "Clay High School's doors will reopen as a new public school, paid for by public funds and operated by a board which is truly interested in the success of its students and the success of this whole community."

Garatoni said they’ve told the corporation of their interest in the property but have heard no response. He said he expects the corporation to draw out the process but they can’t refuse to sell to a charter school under state law.

That process, and the need to make improvements to the building, would mean the school wouldn’t re-open until the fall of 2025.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).