GARY | Grissom Elementary School parent Robyn Probus has attended all three community forums regarding the Lake Ridge Schools' finances and the last three School Board meetings.
Probus is a life long resident of Black Oak, and has a middle school daughter who graduated from Grissom Elementary School in Black Oak and her son is a third-grader there.
The Lake Ridge Community Schools board has voted to close an elementary school to help offset a $1.7 million deficit the district is facing. The district is considering Grissom, the school Probus' children attend, or Hosford Park Elementary School.
Probus wanted to make sure she attended the community forums and all of the meetings so she completely understood what was going on and the reasons behind it.
"I am a big advocate for Black Oak because I was born and raised there," she said Wednesday night, following the third and final community forum on the district's finances.
"In the beginning, I didn't understand, now I do," she said. "But I'm still bothered that we were told at the last minute. They just told us in February that an elementary school would close in June. You're never prepared for something like that."
An involved parent, Probus said it's important to prepare children for such a major event in their life. She said her young son already is asking her what school he will attend in the fall and if he will make friends. She also says the more she attends the forums, the more she understands the situation.
"There are plenty of very angry parents and they are blaming the School Board," Probus said. "I understand it's not the School Board's fault. Where's our mayor? People are not paying their taxes. That's one of the things that she said she would be doing, increasing tax collections. Our mayor has not attended any of these forums."
Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, attended the Thursday night forum and addressed the crowd at Longfellow Elementary School.
Randolph said Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley and other administrators were in Indianapolis earlier this week lobbying on the district's behalf.
"It's an unfortunate situation," he told parents. "There have been severe budget cuts in education, mainly because of the philosophy of the previous governor."
Johnson-Shirley told parents they became aware of the current budget crunch in December when the district collected only 76 percent of its taxes, when it normally collected 90 to 92 percent. In addition to low tax collections, the property tax cap, declining student enrollment, state cuts and the 2008 recession affected the district.