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3/16/2010 11:25:00 AM
Eastbrook Community Schools closing two elementaries

Courtney Flynn, Chronicle-Tribune

It was announced Monday night in front of an estimated crowd of 180 community members that Matthews Elementary and Washington Elementary of the Eastbrook Community Schools Corp. would be closing after the 2009-10 school year at the board’s meeting at the Eastbrook High School auditorium.

The Eastbrook Community Schools Corp.’s board voted unanimously to close these two elementary schools after Superintendent Jerry Harshman officially recommended the idea earlier in the meeting.

“After reviewing all the information presented the most efficient and cost-effective approach to satisfy the goals is to take the very difficult, but decisive action and close both Matthews Elementary and Washington Elementary Schools,” Harshman said.

These closings could result in a savings of $380,597 in 2010 and $796,952 in 2011, Harshman said. However, the consolidations of the schools will likely result in the reduction of four classroom teachers, one special education teacher, two principals, one and-a-half custodial positions and 15 aides.

“It was a no-win situation,” board president Lisa Koontz said.

With the closing of these two elementary schools, the other two elementary schools in the corporation, Upland Elementary and Van Buren Elementary, will absorb the students. However, the names of the remaining elementary schools will change.

Beginning in the 2010-11 school year, the remaining elementary schools will be called Eastbrook North Elementary and Eastbrook South Elementary, Harshman said.

“By creating two new schools, all of Eastbrook’s elementary students, teachers and parents could become part of something new and exciting,” he said.

There are currently 106 students enrolled at Matthews Elementary, which has a capacity of 147; 327 enrolled at Upland Elementary, which has a capacity of 420; 217 enrolled at Van Buren Elementary, which has a capacity of 273 and 153 enrolled at Washington Elementary, which has a capacity 189, according to documents presented at the board meeting.

With the closing of schools and absorption of students, Eastbrook North Elementary would have about 348 students and Eastbrook South Elementary would have about 402 students in the upcoming school year, Harshman said.

He supported these numbers with five reasons why consolidating the schools would benefit the students and staff.

These reasons included even distribution and manageable class sizes for teachers; efficiency and effectiveness of delivering special education services, response to intervention, remediation opportunities during and after school and high-ability learning opportunities; more equal counseling services for the elementary students; decreased amount of traveling between schools for teachers and staff; and more opportunities for academic, athletic, and childcare opportunities before and after school.

However, in order to accommodate the sudden influx of elementary students, Eastbrook South Elementary will need an estimated $38,500 worth of renovations, while Eastbrook North Elementary will need about $600,000 worth of renovations to house the students, Harshman said.

Since these renovations are coming at a time when the school corporation has little funds to work with, Harshman appealed to the Indiana Department of Education for permission to use funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to do the renovations and construction. This request was approved Feb. 22 by Melissa Ambre, the Director of the Office for School Finance.

Once the renovations are complete, there will still be about $160,000 remaining from the recovery act funds.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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