GARY TO CLOSE 12 SCHOOLS
BY: Christin Nance Lazerus
OCTOBER 15th, 2008
Facing a massive budget shortfall and crumbling school buildings, the Gary School Board voted unanimously to enact a restructuring plan that will close 12 schools, including Wirt High School, and place middle and high school students in the same buildings beginning in fall 2009.
The plan will be phased in over the next two years. The corporation was forced to trim its 2009 budget by $23 million, and a recent analysis of school sites showed most buildings to be in poor or inadequate condition.
The shuttered elementary school buildings include McCullough Girls Academy, Banneker, Ivanhoe, Ernie Pyle, Vohr and Kuny. McCullough students will move to Locke Elementary, which will become an all-girls school. Banneker students will move to Kennedy-King Elementary and become a K-8 building.
Dunbar-Pulaski, Tolleston and Bailly middle schools will close. Dunbar-Pulaski will become the new district central office, and Bailly will become an elementary school.
Wirt High School will close and become the new Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
Other closures include the Martin Luther King Academy, the Gary Area Career Center and Chase Alternative School.
All high schools will now serve Grades 7 through 12. Roosevelt will serve as a career and technical high school. Lew Wallace will become a science, technology, engineering and math school. West Side will be a gifted-student and leadership academy.
Parents were stunned by the sheer depth of the closings.
Board President Nellie Moore admitted the moves are extreme, but, "we have extreme issues that require action."
More than 70 people turned out for the meeting. Parents of students at Banneker were especially vocal at the meeting.
Kendra S. Johnson, who has two sons at Banneker, said the building was subpar, but she said the kids deserve a brand new building.
"Banneker is the cream of the crop -- the best in the state, not just the city. I'm sick and tired of Gary being treated as second class," Johnson said. "We need to help (the board) do what's right for our children."
L'Sana Djahspora questioned the 7-through-12 configuration for the three remaining high schools.
"You ram this decision down the public's throat, so we don't see the rationale just desperation," Djahspora said. "You would get more authority on the decision if you included the public."
Moore said details of the closings and curriculum changes will be worked out at several meetings seeking public input this year. In the high schools, seventh- and eighth-grade students will be separated from the rest of the high schoolers.
"There are things that we have to tweak," Moore said. "We have to do some construction work to make these buildings accessible."
Contact Christin Nance Lazerus at 648-3086 or email@example.com