Judge orders Gary schools to turn over shuttered building to charter

2013-03-21T20:35:00Z 2013-03-21T23:26:03Z Judge orders Gary schools to turn over shuttered building to charterBy Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

GARY | A Superior Court judge has ordered the Gary Community School Corp. to lease a shuttered school building to a local charter school.

Judge John Sedia ruled the school corporation shall "immediately" lease the Ernie Pyle Elementary School building at 2545 W. 19th Ave. for $1 per year as required by IC 20-26-7-1 to LEAD College Preparatory charter school in Gary.

Indiana law calls for a school corporation to sell or lease unused buildings to charter schools for $1 per year.

Merrillville Attorney Trent McCain, who represents LEAD College Prep, said school leaders haven't had an opportunity to evaluate the building but estimate the investment will be about half a million dollars.

"The charter is prepared to make this investment, and by law, can use the building as long as it is used for classroom instruction. The moment it stops being used for classroom instruction, it will revert back to the school corporation," McCain said.

Gary Attorney Robert Lewis, who represented the Gary school district in this case, said Thursday he had no comment.

"I  have not seen the order or had a chance to review it," he said. 

Over the course of the case, Gary officials have said the issue is that LEAD College Prep was initially connected with KIPP management company. That management company initially bid $300,000 to buy the former Norton Elementary School. At issue was whether the charter school could be forced to comply with the initial offer made by its former management company.

Further complicating the case is that LEAD College Prep is one of seven charter schools across the state and two in Gary, which authorizer Ball State University did not renew based on an extensive review of academic, financial and organizational performance and compliance. They said the charter would close June 30. The Indiana Department of Education graded the school an F in 2012 and an D in 2011.

LEAD College Prep has an appeal hearing April 3.

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