SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned the South Bend Community School Corporation broke the law by not notifying or offering up empty school buildings to potential charter schools. Now, after a local, successful charter school system showed interest in a building, the school district has decided to sell its administration building and move its offices into one of those closed schools. The move, in turn, will trap many of South Bend’s children in a failing school system, instead of providing more space to a more successful education system.
The Indiana Attorney General ruled the SBCSC broke Indiana law twice when it didn’t offer vacant school buildings to charter schools after receiving complaints on December 15th, 2021. Brown Intermediate, where the district now plans to relocate its administration offices, is one of those schools. The other schools is Hamilton Primary. A copy of the Brown complaint and the ruling from the Indiana Attorney General can be seen below.
“Based on our investigation, it could not be established that South Bend Community School Corporation is occupying or using Brown Intermediate Center and SBCS has not notified the Indiana Department of Education or made the building available for inspection by a charter school or state educational institution, in violation of IC 20-26-7-4(a).” The AG report stated.
More than a month after the complaint, the SBCSC announced plans to sell the current administration building located on Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd. and move its offices into the closed Brown Intermediate Center. The administration brought up the potential sale during a January school board meeting.
A local charter school system, known as Career Academy South Bend, has been interested in acquiring Brown. Career Academy is an A rated school.
“Except for a few openings in some classrooms, our school buildings are maxed out with every possible space converted to class rooms. Brown and Hamilton schools were paid for by the taxpayers of South Bend for the education of South Bend students. If South Bend Schools no longer need these schools, they must be made available for use by other public schools. The Indiana Legislature has passed laws to provide for this and we are asking South Bend schools to comply with the state statute.” Larry Garatoni, Co-founder and Career Academy Board President.
Last week, the South Bend Common Council agreed to appropriate $7.8 million in a step toward buying the current SBCSC administration building. $2.8 million would go toward the purchase of the building. $5 million would go toward renovations and other expenses of a fairly up-to-date building designed for offices. With the purchase, the city is looking to move all of its offices from the County-City Building and other locations into the current SBCSC building.
According to an article by the South Bend Tribune, the SBCSC plans to spend $2.1 to renovate Brown Intermediate. That’s $2.9 million less than the city’s proposed renovations and would be completely overhauling a vacant school building into administrative offices. Some are sceptical of the SBCSC’s numbers and the school district is taking its time providing documents to support its estimates.
On February 17th, REAL News Michiana requested the square footage, number of employees in the building, utilities costs, current repair estimates/costs, parking costs, number of employees getting paid parking and cost per year for parking for each person for the current administration building from the SBCSC. RNM also requested square footage, detailed cost of what it will cost to convert it into offices, utilities costs, detailed cost of repairs, condition of HVAC system, condition of roof (estimated years of life left) for Brown Intermediate. As of publication, that request has not been fulfilled.
According to state statute, closed public schools must be offered to charter schools. RNM has attached a copy of that statute below.
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