Muncie Schools considering school closures to cut deficit

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MUNCIE, Ind. -- While state lawmakers debate whether they need to take over the cash-strapped Muncie Community Schools, the district is laying out a blue print for slashing a deficit that's reaching into the millions and includes closing schools.

The board voted Tuesday night to table the vote and hold a public meeting on school closures before making any final decision.

"We just hate it we really truly don't want to have to close schools, but it's absolutely essential for us to create some financial stability for the district and sustainability," board president Debbie Feick said.

The administration recommended closing three elementary schools to save about $3 million and retaining East Washington Academy, Grissom Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School, North View Elementary School, Southview Elementary School and West View Elementary School. The plan also suggests closing a middle school and keeping Southside Middle School to save about $1.1 million, cutting 4 administration support staff positions to save about $151,000 and combining Muncie Area Career Center functions with Ivy Tech and the high school.

"Administratively what the recommendations are gonna be basically we've got to come up with about $15-18 million worth of reductions," superintendent Dr. Steven Baule said.

Baule said since 2008, the district has spent more than it's taken in except for one year. The enrollment rate is also declining at a faster rate than predicted. Right now, there is only a 69 percent utilization of the district.

Those at Tuesday night's board meeting asked for more teacher involvement in the decision making process and gave an hour and a half of passionate public comments raising concerns about the districts dire financial situation.

"I think the key is if somebody comes over from the state the plan that this board has been working on for the last two years is not different than what the state would do," Baule said.

The house passed SB 567 last week to take over the district. Now it's waiting for a senate vote. Senator Doug Eckerty's office said he is planning to address it in a conference committee and request an extension to October 31st.