SBCSC hears public on possible partnership with Purdue Polytechnic High School

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A partnership between Purdue and the South Bend School Corporation could mean new opportunities for high school students. On Wednesday residents got a chance to weigh in on the potential charter school, with plans to open late this summer.

 Two public meetings were held Wednesday to discuss the potential partnership between South Bend Schools and the Purdue Polytechnic High School.

The second meeting was held at Washington High School, one of the places the Purdue Polytechnic High School is looking to move into.

South Bend resident who came to the earlier meeting question the partnership and whether it will be the downfall to public schools in South Bend.

“South Bend has a lot to offer and I think we just need to give our city the chance,” Shawn Henderson, the Riley High School Principal said.

Henderson is saying what a lot of south bend residents are thinking, as a partnership with South Bend schools and Purdue Polytechnic High School or PPHS is looming overhead.

Wednesday, two public meetings were held to discuss the possible partnership with the charter school. Officials from Riley High School and PPHS both presented their case.

“We do a ton of face to face instruction, we really focus on competencies in addition to academic standards,” Scott Bess, the Head of School for Purdue Polytechnic High School said. “Students really get to dive deep into projects, collaboration with teachers and obviously the direct pipeline to Purdue University which is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the state.”

However many, including Henderson, say the magnet programs already in place at the public high school level is excellent and the partnership with Purdue could take away from what's already here.

“We just do an amazing job with engineering, magnet and just a different things we have to offer in our community,” Henderson said.

And residents echo that thought.

“I don’t think they’re doing anything different than what our public option is doing,” Drew Duncan, one resident said.

“We need to strengthen the Riley School program and maintain the integrity of our public schools,” Marty Wolfson, another resident said.

“I think it’s something we should grow on our own,” Linda Lucy, the President for NEA South Bend Teachers Association.

Bess said he doesn’t want this to be a competition, but collaboration.

“We just have a different structure,”  he said. “It’s more of a complimentary thing.”

But for many in the room, there is a worry that this school, which is open to gain 75 to 125 freshman students, will be stealing those students from local public schools.

“I do believe that this can impact the enrollment of the freshman at Riley High School and what we do,” Henderson said.

“My concern is that another program using STEM would draw students away from that program,” Wolfson said.

“We’re not fighting for students. We’re not trying to tear each other down but really build each other up,” Bess said.

Bess said they are coming to South Bend with or without the partnership since they have a charter through the state already, but still hoping there is an agreement in the future.

But where the school ends up is also up to dispute. Right now, the plan is to have the charter school inside Washington High School, but some say it would negatively affect the school.

Todd Cummings Superintendent of South Bend School Corporation, tells the group that this collaboration would be beneficial to all.

“It could bring students back to Washington, give students more opportunity and we can end up with some financial benefit as opposed to them going to Studebaker,” Cummings said.

Bess tells ABC57 student recruitment starts Wednesday, students can apply online as early as Wednesday night.

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