Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Map: What Became of Former School Buildings After Schools Closed

Indiana Department of Education documents show nearly 146 traditional public schools have closed in Indiana over the last four years. We’ve mapped the fate of as many of those buildings as we could.  Some are now churches, some are now charter school, some sit vacant gathering dust waiting for a new purpose. Many of these school were victims of a recent round of state budget cuts. Some were the victims of declining enrollment. Under an new law passed during the last legislative session, any of these buildings that hit the marketplace could be targets for charter school operators. These groups and individuals are able to purchase or lease these properties for $1.

Take a look at our interactive map and click on the markers to see the fate of closed schools in your area.

Source: Indiana Department of Education, Various County Property Records
(Not all of the schools on this map are permanently closed. Some are still operated by the district under different names and some have been repurposed.)

These are the stories of two closed schools on which we’ve already reported:

Canaan Elementary School

Opened July 1, 1959
Closed July 31, 2010

When Madison Consolidated School Corporation announced the closure of Canaan Elementary School in 2010, the town organized a campaign to reopen the school as an independent community run charter school. Deena Schafer is one of the organizers behind the newly minted Rural Community Academy. In an interview earlier this year, she described the process of hustling resources from the local school corporation.

“Even though they (Madison Consolidated School Corporation) removed all the desk and chairs in the building,” Schafer says. “When they would get new furniture they would give us a call and ask if we wanted hand me downs.”

They managed to fill the building with second hand books, computers, desk, chairs, and kitchen equipment.

But Canaan has a number of things going for it. There is a strong history of teaching in the community. Schafer is currently a teacher at school in the Madison Consolidated School Corporation. Her mother was principal at Canaan Elementary. Her daughter and aunt are also teachers.

Then there’s geography. Canaan is miles from the nearest traditional public elementary school and many people live in the countryside on the far side of the town. When the building first closed, parents suddenly found themselves sending their children on long winding bus rides that could take an hour or more. In some cases, the district did not provide return service, so the parents found themselves making long drives to pick up their children from school. Canaan Community Academy was able to step in and fill a local need.

Reynolds Elementary School

Opened September 1st, 1914
Closed June 30, 2011

This isn’t the usual reaction to a closed school buildings. North of Lafayette,in the town of Reynolds, Ind., residents complain of long bus waits for children standing in isolated bus stops. They say this is a new problem after the closure of the town’s local elementary school. Longer distances have stretched transportation services thin.

Local business owner Chris Fullerton says he worries that fewer buses means younger children will be forced to ride the same buses as high schoolers.

“I know some of those kids out there at the bus stop have been kicked out of school,’ said Fullerton. “And who knows what they’re doing? Selling drugs. I don’t know.”

But for all the grousing, there’s no plan to reopen the buildings. School Board President Shannon Mattix says the district is in talk’s to possibly sell one of the district’s two empty building to an out of state technology firm.


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