GARY | The Gary School Board voted to keep Dunbar-Pulaski open as a citywide middle school housing seventh- and eighth-graders.
The board voted a couple of weeks ago to close six schools. The district has a $23.7 million deficit, along with a declining enrollment and 42 percent property tax collection.
However, the board made it clear it would need to decide whether to keep Dunbar-Pulaski or Lew Wallace open as a middle school.
School Board members Doretha Rouse, Nellie Moore, Marion Williams, Robert Campbell and president Rosie Washington supported the recommendation. Board members Antuwan Clemons and LaBrenda King-Smith voted against it.
Clemons said he doesn't believe there is enough space in Dunbar-Pulaski to house special needs students and for the extracurricular activities the school needs to offer.
"I can't support that plan, especially if we have an influx of students returning to the Gary schools," he said.
King-Smith agreed and said she also doesn't support the recommendation to create a freshman academy at West Side.
"These are challenging times for our district and others across the state," King-Smith said. "We have an obligation to do due diligence and I take that responsibility seriously just as my fellow board members do. I have a real concern with some of the closures."
Gary teachers union president Joe Zimmerman said he expected the board to approve Dunbar-Pulaski as the new citywide middle school.
"Now that the decision has made, a middle school is best," he said. "We tried 7-12 at some buildings and K-8, but it didn't work as well as it was supposed to. I think the middle school concept will be better."
Zimmerman said he wishes the decision had been made sooner. He said teachers need packing material and need to move into new buildings.
"Our goal right now is to get ready for Aug. 18 (the first day of school for teachers). I've got some concerns about the amount of time we've got to move, about eight weeks," he said.