South Bend Schools one step closer to consolidation plan

NOW: South Bend Schools one step closer to consolidation plan

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- South Bend Schools held a task force meeting to share the results and data of a survey that asked for the community’s input for their long-term facilities master plan. 

Comprised of three scenarios, feedback was given by parents and corporation members about how they believe the district should be right sized, that means vacating some schools. 

Monday night’s meeting focused on phase two of the plan which only deals with elementary and middle schools.  

As a recap, Scenario A that would vacate both Muessel and Warren Elementary Schools.  

Scenario B would also vacate Warren Elementary School, as well as convert McKinley and Kennedy Schools into early childhood centers.  

Scenario C would vacate both Warren Elementary and Jackson Middle Schools as well as convert Darden into a middle school and Swanson into an elementary school. 

The data shared at the meeting showed the task force that the community recognizes changes need to be made, but they don’t want the change to happen to their own schools. That makes the task of devising a single plan trickier, but points the team in the right direction of how they can consolidate and ultimately create a more cohesive plan for the future of South Bend Schools. 

“I think people realize we need to right size the district, just don’t do it with their school,” says Scott Leopold, Director of Planning Services at HPM Leadership 

The south bend school corporation is getting one step closer to making a final decision towards consolidation, but it doesn’t come without mixed reaction. 

Several community meetings and a centralized survey gathered input over the last few weeks that will play a major role in the decision. 

“If there was a program that is perceived as being a popular program, people don’t want to change it,” Leopold shares. “They want to keep what they’ve got, or even expand it.” 

Some takeaways from the feedback are that there is support for preserving successful choice programs, reducing the number of high schools, and building more clear feeder patterns within the district. 

“What we’re trying to do is build clear, strong, feeder patterns,” Leopold explains. “For example, Madison Elementary, it splits like six different ways. We want to get to a point where every elementary school feeds to one middle school, and then that feeds to one high school.” 

Some options were even prematurely rejected or deemed unpopular due to the community feedback, like Scenario C in general, reducing the district to two high schools. 

However, survey administrators want to remind the community that vacating some schools is part of the bigger picture when cutting costs. 

“We’re trying to right size the district so that we’re not spending money on utilities and empty buildings, so we can get more dollars into the classroom,” says Leopold. 

The task force warns it’s impossible to make a plan that will be unanimously agreed on, but they’ll be taking community feedback with heavy weight when they devise a recommendation for the school board. 

“Ultimately, it’s a board decision,” explains Leopold. “We can make the recommendation to the board as kind of third-party objective experts, and they can do with it as they will.” 

The task force will present a single recommendation to the school board next Monday at clay high school. They will then discuss the plan in-depth, but nothing will be acted on until April 17th.  

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