Residents of communities near threatened schools to get their say

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Residents of Holley and Crawfordsville will get their say on the issue of what to do with those schools in late October when the District 55 School Board holds community meetings to deal with the issue.

The purpose of the meetings, said Supt. Larry Horton, will be to listen to concerns and get feedback from the community about potential changes and closures.

The board, at its monthly meeting Monday, agreed to hold the meetings at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25 and Thursday, Oct. 27. Board members did not determine which meeting would be at which location ? Holley or Crafordsville schools ? but stated that one meeting would be held at each facility.

The board has toyed with the idea of closing one of the schools to save money and last May agreed to consider a proposal by People In Education, which opearates the Sand Ridge Charter School in Sodaville, to establish such a school in District 55, possibly in the Crawfordsville school building.

The situation has changed a bit since then, board members learned Monday.

Supt. Larry Horton and district principals reported that enrollment this year has surpassed their expectations, totaling 2,390 as of Monday ? 51 more students than the district had last year.

Some board members, who have appeared reluctant to consider the possibility of closing one of the district’s five elementary schools, seemed almost dismissive of the idea Monday.

“In light of the enrollment increases, I’m asking if we need to have (the community meetings),” asked Board Member Peter VanDerlip, who represents the Crawfordsville area.

Horton said he thought it would help board members be able to make a more objective decision.

“It’s a good time to talk about something when an emergency is not staring you between the eyes,” he said. “I think the staffs deserve to have some kind of plan in place. I think these communities want to have a plan in place.”

VanDerlip said he agreed, but was concerned about making sure all members of the communities in question would be notified.

Horton said the district would notify residents through the local media, through its Web site, through site counseling at the schools, and through letters to parents. But, he noted, that probably would not ensure everyone knew about the meetings.

“This is my 34th year and I don’t care how much energy you put into it ? someone will come back and say, “I didn’t know about it,” he said.

Horton said the community meetings should include a presentation from Sand Ridge Administrator Jay Jackson, who was at Monday’s meeting, on “what a charter school would look like.”

Board members did not take any action on Horton’s recommendation that they consider selecting an enrollment figure at which they would be forced to close a school.

“I think the continuous enrollment figure should be determined after the fact,” said Don Hopkins, the Holley representative.

Also on Monday, the board:

— Approved the second reading of a district tobacco policy that would ban tobacco use or sales on district property, tobacco advertising of any kind on district property, and district acceptance of funds from the tobacco industry.

Board member Jason Redick questioned how that policy might affect the district’s cooperation with the Oregon Jamboree, which takes place partially on the high school athletic field and on school parking lots.

He noted that the ban on tobacco sponsorship of activities on school property could be a problem with the Jamboree.

Horton acknowledged that the sponsorship issue could be “major,” but said the district would have to get together with Jamboree officials to solve any such problems. He noted that the Jamboree already restricts alcohol sales and consumption to city land next to Sankey Park and that tobacco use could be similarly restricted.

“I expect the Jamboree and ourselves to have to come up with a lease agreement that’s pretty tight,” he said.

— Awarded a $148,500 contract to Morse Brothers to pave the Foster playground, the Hawthorne front parking lot, the south gym playground and roadway at Oak Heights, and to repair and seal cracks at Holley and Crawfordsville.

— Moved its October board meeting to Oct. 17 because Horton plans to be out of town on the regular meeting date, Oct. 10.