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Carmel school board to decide the fate of elementary schools

INDIANAPOLIS, In. - The Carmel Clay School Board is set to decide the future of two elementary schools at a meeting Monday night.

Carmel Elementary and Orchard Park Elementary both need extensive upgrades at a time when the district reports declining enrollment.  The interim co-superintendent has recommended a new Carmel Elementary be built on the same land where the current school stands. He also recommended Orchard Park Elementary School be shut down and a new school be built on the west side.

As the board's decision looms, parents are organizing in hopes of keeping Orchard Park Elementary open. Many plan on attending Monday night's meeting.

Yard signs that read "Save Orchard Park Elementary" greet drivers as they make their way through the Home Place neighborhood. Virginia Ranly is among those taking action. She says she and her husband moved to this area with the idea of eventually walking their kids Orchard Park, just a few blocks away.

"It’s a really special unique community," Ranly said. "It has over 31 languages spoken by the kids at home."

But, the interim co-superintendent's suggestions could impact the family's plans.

"That shook us to the core because we know and love this elementary school," Ranly said.

Carmel Clay Schools leaders say all the schools on Carmel's east side are under capacity and growth is happening on the west side. Orchard Park needs major renovations. Administrators say building a new school on the west side would be slightly more expensive but makes more sense.

"It will also place over 1300 kids closer to their school than they are now," said Roger McMichael, interim co-superintendent. "Which implies shorter bus rides and so forth."

Ranly said the  move would cause a significant disruption for families.

"There would likely be three different schools where the current Orchard Park kids would end up," Ranly said.

Nearby businesses like Greek Tony's Pizza are also showing support for the elementary school. The manager has placed signs at the front counter.

"When people hear about a school like that,  its been around, their kid’s kids went there," said Sara Harris, whose daughter goes to the Orchard Park. "It's like heartbreaking."

The plan would not raise taxes for any Carmel resident. No students would be moved for three years. The process would be set to being in 2020.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday night.