Facing a $10 million budget shortfall during the next two years, South Bend Community School Corp.'s board on Tuesday reviewed a lengthy list of potential options for saving money. Closing one or two schools ... ideas on the list.
Public input will then be sought and by this fall, an option or options will be decided upon. The plan will be put in place at the beginning of the 2013/14 school year.
On Thursday evening, the board got a better sense of what that would involve.
Months ago, the district hired Hebard & Hebard to do a comprehensive study of all of its facilities. Representatives of the architectural firm gave the school board a preliminary presentation at a special meeting Thursday.
Roger Parent, school board president, and others, stressed the options are simply ideas at this point and not recommendations. It’s possible that as the issue of right-sizing the district’s facilities is explored further, Parent said, more options will be developed.
The primary criteria used for the redistricting options, Ken Hebard said, was focusing on disrupting as few students as possible, while also adhering to the consent decree that requires racial balance in South Bend schools.
Also, he said, when looking at mapping, the firm considered natural boundaries such as the river, highways and neighborhoods.
“We want to respect those natural boundaries ... and respect walkability whenever possible,” he said. “You don’t want to break a subdivision or apartment complex right down the middle ... These are guidelines we’ve used.”
- The first option discussed was closing Greene Intermediate Center, adjusting attendance boundaries and sending Greene students to other schools. In doing so, the architects said, the district’s intermediate schools would still only be at an average of 70 percent capacity.
- Another option is closing Perley Fine Arts Academy, relocating Perley’s magnet program to Nuner and repurposing Perley school.
- Muessel could also be closed and the building could be repurposed for other programs.
- A fourth option would combine Marquette and Muessel attendance boundaries, and offer the Montessori program at Marquette for pre-kindergarten and lower elementary levels and at Muessel for upper elementary levels.
- A fifth option would close the Eggleston School building and move the programs there to a centrally located facility.
- A final option is to bring fifth-grade students back to the primary centers from the intermediate centers.
Stephanie Spivey, a school board member, asked if changing the grade configuration to kindergarten through sixth for elementary schools could be considered and Superintendent Carole Schmidt said the administration would explore the academic feasibility of doing so.
School administrators have said an intermediate center closure could save some $700,000 annually, while closing a primary center would save the district $400,000.
The architects said the options — including any additional ones that are added — should be whittled down to two or three that can be explored in greater depth with the board in a special work session next month.
Schmidt said she would provide budget- and academic-related information to board members before they make the decision on the top choices for options.
After Thursday evening’s meeting, a Tribune reporter requested a copy of the presentation made by the architects. Through a secretary, Schmidt denied that request, advising The Tribune should wait for an edited version of the report that will appear on the district’s website at some point.
However, Parent, the board president, provided an unedited copy of the report, when asked.