Muncie school board votes 3-2 to close 3 elementary schools

MUNCIE, Ind. – The board of trustees for Muncie Community Schools has voted to close three elementary schools. The vote came down to 3-2 at a meeting Thursday night.

The closure of Mitchell, Storer and Sutton elementary schools is part of the district’s plan to slash a deficit as large as $18 million by next year. School officials estimate closing the schools will save about $3 million. All other elementary schools will remain open.

The decision comes as legislators consider a state takeover of the school corporation. The house passed SB 567 last week to take over the district. Now it's waiting for a Senate vote.

"This I think, is one of the best ways to show them that we’re serious," said parent Sara Gullion. We're showing them that there’s a community that cares and that we can fix it ourselves."

Sara Gullion is one of many parents who believe sacrifices have to be made in order for Muncie Schools to preserve its autonomy.

The board considered closing three elementary schools and Northside Middle to do so. In the end, the board amended the plan Thursday night to exclude the middle school from the list of closures for now.

That didn't allay concerns for parents worried about what class sizes will look like once the remaining schools, currently underutilized, are at capacity with the new students.

And others yet felt the cuts need to be even deeper to balance the books.

"Don’t tell us $4 million by closing these three schools, that’s going to solve your problems," said one parent during the public hearing before the vote.

In addition to cost-cutting by closing schools, superintendent Steve Baule says they’ve scoured all their finances for savings, from insurance policies to printing costs.

“We’ve got about a 15 million dollar issue, but now we’re at the point where we have about $13 million of that addressed,” said Baule.

Without cuts, Baule admits that with decreasing state aid due to a continued drop in enrollment the shortfall could be closer to $18 million next year.

But he, the board members who voted for the plan, and the parents supporting them, hope what they've done so far will be enough to keep lawmakers off their backs.

"We’re not there yet," said Gullion. "We can do this."