County leaders divided on possibility of new school district in South Bend
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind - Last night, the St. Joseph County Council voted 5-4 in favor of a resolution requesting the Indiana Secretary of Education to examine the need for a new school district to better serve the unincorporated areas of the county.
This comes from the closure of Clay High School by the South Bend Community School Corporation.
“It was a win-win for those parents and students affected by the changes and closure of Clay,” said Robert Smith, president of Save Clay Inc.
The St. Joseph County Council voted in favor of a resolution to call upon the Indiana Secretary of Education to take the first steps in creating a new school district in the county.
Dr. Todd Cummings, the superintendent of South Bend Schools. understands its painful but maintains the closure of Clay High School next year is best for the future of its students.
“Making cuts like closing Clay High School are never easy to do, but in 89 public meetings and in 17 surveys, even with the referendum, we’ve been very clear that the district needs to rightsize its buildings in order to get academic outcomes for all of our students,” said Dr. Cummings.
The close 5-4 vote shows not everyone agrees. County councilwoman Diana Hess, who voted against the Save Clay resolution, is concerned the decision may be government overreach.
"There is an elected school board where this manner should be taken up and that we were overstepping our bounds by taking a vote on the manner to begin with. It's clear that’s it’s a very divisive issue and that not everyone in Clay Township supports the Save Clay initiative,” said Hess.
Councilwoman Amy Drake, who voted in favor of the resolution, says she is just listening to the concerns of her constituents.
“Clay feels like there is a hole there in this unincorporated area of the county which is no longer going to be served by a high school and kids are going to have to go into the city for their high school education. Not everyone wants that,” said Drake.
Robert Smith, the president of Save Clay Inc. calls the move a victory and says this fight is bigger than Clay itself because other South Bend schools could meet the same fate.
"The facility study indicated that the drop in student enrollment will continue for the next 3-5 years, which means, in my commonsense approach, schools are going to continue to close,” said Smith.
ABC57 did reach out to the Secretary of Education in Indianapolis for a response to the resolution approved Tuesday night but so far, they haven't returned our request for comment.