Lake Ridge votes to close an elementary building, outsource custodial

2013-02-25T22:15:00Z 2013-02-26T10:57:07Z Lake Ridge votes to close an elementary building, outsource custodialCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

CALUMET TWP. | Nearly 200 parents, teachers and community members turned out for a Lake Ridge School Board meeting Monday night to protest the closing of an elementary school and contracting out of maintenance and janitorial services.

The board voted on a resolution to close an elementary school but it didn't identify the school. The district is considering Grissom or Hosford Park schools. School leaders said the district could save $267,000 in 2013 and $800,000 in 2014 by closing an elementary school building. A series of public forums will be held in the next few weeks for community input.

More than a dozen people spoke in favor of keeping elementary buildings open, particularly in the Black Oak area where Grissom is not just the school building but serves as a community gathering place.

Parent Robyn Probus said she has two children at Grissom, and the children are getting a great education. "It's the only school north of Ridge Road. This school received an A from the Indiana Department of Education. It would make more sense to close the administration building," Probus said.

Veteran Hosford Park teacher Christine Cashen suggested putting together a committee of parents, teachers and staff to develop a solution in lieu of closing a school.

Dan Brugioni, Calumet High School teacher and president of the teachers federation, said closing a school and outsourcing services will be devastating for residents.

"There is still time. Don't make a decision without exploring every option," he said.

In other action, the Lake Ridge School Board approved a motion to contract out maintenance/janitorial services effective in March. The issue came up for a vote in December and the board turned it down.

However, officials said the district's financial picture has become more somber as it faces a $1.7 million deficit next year. Business manager James Huddleston said if the district doesn't make some cuts it won't be able to pay its bills or make payroll in October.

Huddleston said the financial problems are caused by property tax caps and reduced tax collections. While the state supports the general fund, Huddleston said tax collections were around 76 percent rather than 90 percent to 92 percent that it usually sees. He said that affects every other fund, and the district has had to borrow from its general fund to keep up with its bills.

By outsourcing maintenance, custodial and janitorial, Huddleston said the district will save $583,000 from March to December. Huddleston said all staff will be offered jobs through the new company, however, there is no guarantee that every employee will remain with the district.

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