GARY, Ind. (AP)-
Nearly 2,200 students could end up in different schools in the fall after
the Gary School Board's decision to close six of the district's 17 schools
in a budget-cutting move.
The board voted
4-2 Tuesday to approve the closings of Lew Wallace High School and five
other schools to help close what administrators say is a $27 million
deficit blamed in part on declining enrollment and the state's property
tax caps, the Post-Tribune and The Times of Munster reported.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she expected more than 200 jobs to be
lost in the closings.
The amount of
savings from the school closings depends on which teachers and other staff
members remain and their salaries, said Michael Washington, the district's
chief financial officer.
Nellie Moore said the city's declining population and tax collection rate
of 42 percent left the district no choice.
"This is a very
uncomfortable decision but it is one that has to be made," she said.
enrollment of about 8,600 students for this school year is down from the
some 16,000 students it had eight years ago, according to state Education
Union president Joseph Zimmerman blamed charter schools and the state's
private school voucher program for eroding the district's enrollment.
"We have to look
at how we got to this point. Across the city, there are 4,000 plus
(students) in charter schools. This is the Wal-Martization of our
community," he said, referring to the nonunion charter and private
The district has
long struggled with high poverty levels and low academic performance at
its schools, with 11 of them receiving F grades in the state's latest
LaBrenda King-Smith, who voted against the closing plan, said district
administrators had failed to communicate with the public about the
schools at once does more harm than good," she said. "To receive
information at the very last minute is an injustice to all. You have to
work together collectively and you cannot exclude the community."