South Bend school district releases plan for closing, consolidating schools

NOW: South Bend school district releases plan for closing, consolidating schools

At the school board meeting Monday evening, the district presented its plan to close two elementary schools and the options for reorganizing middle and high schools.

District officials discussed plans to close Hay and Tarkington elementary schools at the end of this academic year during the South Bend Community School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting. While both schools can accommodate more than 600 students, Hay operates at 50% capacity and Tarkington operates at less than 60% capacity.

Four virtual information sessions have been scheduled for February 3 for families, staff and faculty of the two schools.

In two of the sessions, families can ask Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings questions and get information on school options for students.

The other two sessions are designed for faculty and staff who will be impacted by the closures.

“As we stated last year in advance of the referendum vote, the District is committed to rightsizing. Closing Hay and Tarkington would be a resourceful response to underutilized buildings and declining enrollment. Continuing to spend money to maintain buildings that are used at half capacity makes little sense,” said Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings. “As stewards of this corporation’s financial resources, the Board and I have the responsibility and duty to examine options for improving academic outcomes and for making wise budgetary decisions.”

The district will also create an Innovation Network Zone for Muessel Elementary and Marquette Montessori Academy, two schools that are underperforming.

A final board vote on the closing of the schools and the Innovation zone will be scheduled for February 22.

“Every student in the South Bend Community School Corporation deserves to attend a high performing school. For too long, some of our students have been tethered to failing schools; it is time to transform their academic lives and explore ways to allow students’ potential to shine,” Cummings said in a press release. “These decisions to close and reorganize are rooted in the priorities of our strategic plan: academic success, financial sustainability, and equity and inclusion.”

The district also discussed options and recommendations for secondary schools for the 2022-23 school year.

  • One option is for middle school students to attend a middle school, a grades 6-12 junior-senior high school, or the district’s K-8 school. If this model is chosen, two grade 6-12 junior-senior high schools would operate as separate schools within one building. Each school would have its own principals, administrative teams and teachers.
  • Another option is to reconfigure an existing high school into a vocational center.
  • A final, last resort option, is to close on the of the high schools.

Dr. Cummings says he will seek input from residents about these options.

“These recommendations for realigning some secondary schools in the district would maximize opportunities for academic transformation, but before any plan is finalized, I will seek community feedback throughout 2021 through a series of meetings with community groups and other stakeholders,” Dr. Cummings said.

A final decision will be made by the Board of Trustees at the end of the calendar year 2021.

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