Indiana

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Could Rural Schools Reopen As Charters? It’s Happening In Some Communities

Supporters of keeping Union Junior-Senior High School and Dugger Elementary open listen during a Northeast School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Supporters of keeping Union Junior-Senior High School and Dugger Elementary open listen during a Northeast School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting.

The majority of Indiana school corporations don’t have a charter school within their boundaries — and those that do tend to be the larger, urban districts.

But as Lisa Trigg writes for the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, some small communities are turning to charters as a way to keep local schools open:

Until fall 2012, Rural Community Academy was the only rural charter school in Indiana. That changed when Canaan Community Academy opened in southern Indiana, using the Graysville model.

[Graysville school leader Susie] Pierce said the Canaan residents found themselves in the same place that the Graysville community was in more than a decade ago — a similar place to where the community of Dugger is now experiencing, with school closure pending.

“We asked what they were going to do to this building,” Pierce said of the Graysville closing, “and they said, ‘turn off the utilities, put plywood on the windows and abandon the building.’ That’s what Canaan was facing, too.”

As a Graysville native loyal to her community, Pierce said she was like many people who wanted to see the local school stay. The building opened in 1927 as the Turman Township Grade and High School. Her own grandmother graduated in 1929.

She said that closing small schools leads to the deterioration of the rural community, and it sets aside a useful building that is a focus in the community.

Earlier this week the Northeast School Corporation met to consider the fate of two Sullivan county schools — Union Junior-Senior High School and Dugger Elementary. Proponents of keeping the schools open told the Board of Trustees they had no intention of sending their children to North Central and would instead transfer to neighboring school corporations.

If the school corporation does close the Dugger schools, could they reopen as charters? It’s a possibility. Control of the building would return to Cass Township if the reorganization plans pans out. In Indiana, charters can lease or buy unused school buildings for $1.

Check out our map of school corporations with charters in their boundaries. Are there other rural areas where opening a charter might make sense?

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