At an emotional meeting, the Muncie Community Schools board voted 4-1 to close one of the district’s two high schools in an effort to cut costs.
The move will make Muncie a one-high-school town for the first time in more than 50 years, reports Indiana Public Radio’s Stephanie Wiechmann:
Beginning next school year, all high school students will combine into the Central High School building and Southside [High School] will become a middle school for grades 6-8.
Muncie Community Schools Superintendent Tim Heller told the public that the Central High School building was the only building large enough to house all of grades 9-12 in the city.“Merging the high schools will provide more educational opportunities for all students and allow the creation of new programming, such as early college and International Baccalaureate programs,” Heller said.
Board chairperson Bev Kelley was the only board member who voted no to closing Southside. She was also the only one who took the chance to speak from the board table.
“It never was to me about the two schools. It was all about cost containment,” Kelley said. “And I felt in my heart there were other things that we could have done under cost containment to save money besides doing these two schools, and I still feel that way.”
The move to close the school is not directly related to the failure of the district’s referendum two weeks ago, but it shares a similar root cause.
Muncie Community Schools’ enrollment has slipped by about 1,000 students in the past six years, and the loss of 40 percent of the district’s tax revenues to property tax caps has compounded the pain.
The meeting, Michelle Kinsey reports for The Star Press, was brief — only 15 minutes long. A large crowd packed the Muncie Area Career Center’s auditorium for the meeting.
“It’s a sad day, we need to grieve, but when someone dies — and that’s what this is like — you don’t just stop, you have to move on and you have to figure out a way to get past it,” Muncie Southside history teacher Melody Brunsman told IPR. “You know, it’s going to be hard to put on purple, but if that’s what I have to do, I’m going to put on purple next year.”