St. Joseph County Council votes 5-4 in favor of steps toward new school district

NOW: St. Joseph County Council votes 5-4 in favor of steps toward new school district

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - There was heated debate happening in the St. Joseph County Council chambers Tuesday night after the County Council voted in favor of taking the first steps towards creating a new school district within the county.

Tuesday's split vote is a victory for the members of Save Clay, Inc. But it still isn't clear whether this will keep Clay High School open.

“It’s not about Save Clay, it’s about students, academic performance, and the best quality education you can get,” said Robert Smith, President of Save Clay, Inc.

Councilmembers made the vote in a narrow 5-4 decision.

“We’re asking for facts and information to make sure that kids have the best educational opportunities they can. No one should feel threatened by that,” said Councilwoman Amy Drake.

The council is now requesting the Indiana Secretary of Education to conduct a study to see if a new school district, separate from the South Bend Community School Corporation, would better serve students and parents in the townships and unincorporated areas of St. Joseph County.

But like the nearly split vote, thoughts on the resolution are also down the middle.

“I’m concerned that I think the resolution, I think is a pretext for giving power to more concentrated form in the hands of the state,” said Ken Miller Rieman.

Many county residents voiced their disapproval for the resolution in Tuesday night’s meeting, echoed by the thoughts of some county council members who don’t think the matter is up to their discretion.

“We are not empowered to have any impact, direct or otherwise, on our local school districts,” said Councilman Bryan Tanner.

In a statement, South Bend Schools called the resolution a "distraction" and "unrealistic" which, "would threaten the quality of learning for students in Clay Township."

The school corporation reiterates the decision to shut down Clay High School follows third-party studies, surveys of residents, and at least 89 public meetings on its Facilities Master Plan.

But others, including the five councilmembers who voted yes, believe it’s simply acting on the valid concerns of residents, concerns that have been made known since the Facilities Master Plan was even introduced.

The council said it’s still up to the Secretary of Education in Indianapolis if she even wants to conduct the study. This vote simply backs Save clay’s efforts in pursuing that study to be done.

Read SBCSC's full response to the vote below:

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