EAST CHICAGO | The East Chicago School Board approved the transfer of school property for $1 each to the city of East Chicago.
The board approved transferring the former Field Elementary School and three recreational centers, including the Roxanna Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the Marktown Center to the city.
The city wants to convert the Field Elementary into a university campus.
Several years ago, the school system invested more than $1 million into the elementary school building.
East Chicago School Board President Constance El-Amin, who was once principal at Field Elementary, said a university will be good for people interested in pursuing a higher education and the city.
"At one time, East Chicago had Indiana University, Purdue University and Calumet College in our city, but they moved away because they didn't have room to expand," she said.
"This is an economic stimulus for our city. It will provide a future for our residents and jobs in this community," El-Amin said.
Field School, which once housed about 228 students, was closed in June 2007 due to declining enrollment and decreased tax collections. Most of the students were transferred to Franklin Elementary School.
District leaders talked about opening an alternative school in the building and using it to house other programs. In 2008, there was discussion about moving the central office to Field elementary but that never happened. Currently, it is used for some alternative school programs.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland is pleased about the donation. He said city officials have been working to attract another institution of higher education to the city for the last year and a half.
Ivy Tech Community College Northwest already has a location in East Chicago at the De La Garza Center. However, Copeland said Ivy Tech has little room to grow in its location. He said the college is one of three that have expressed interest in locating in the former elementary school building. Copeland said the other two entities which are interested are Martin University and Dabney University. Only one institution will be chosen to make use of the former elementary school.
Officials say the Field school building will close at the end of the semester. Teachers have been told to be ready to move to other buildings by Jan. 22.
Meanwhile, Copeland said a university will be a win-win situation for residents of East Chicago and surrounding communities. He said the city has been investing in the North Harbor area, with a senior citizen building and single family housing. He said the area is ripe for development and a university offering associate, bachelor and master's degrees will provide another anchor for the community.
"This school will be in walking distance for many potential students," Copeland said. "We believe it will encourage people to go to college and get their degrees. By this area being primed for redevelopment, it's going to be very attractive to people."
Copeland said that most people did not know that while the city operated the three recreational centers, paying for the staff, utilities and maintenance, the buildings were owned by the school district.
"I've had our building department go out and assess all of our buildings," he said. "We want to invest money in our buildings. We reached out to the school district to determine their plans regarding those three centers. They didn't necessarily want to invest money in them. Now, that they have been transferred to us, we intend to invest a sizable amount of money and bring them up to code."