CROWN POINT | Several parents and local residents spoke in favor Monday of a request to open a charter school in Merrillville.
Schererville resident Darlene Henderson is seeking approval from the Indiana Charter School Board to open the Heritage Institute of Arts and Technology.
The board hosted a public hearing Monday about the proposed charter school to invite feedback from residents. It is set to make a decision about the plan at its May 21 meeting.
Mary Banks, of Gary, said her 6-year-old son is on the autism spectrum and she looks forward to a school opening that can tend to his needs.
"I was heartbroken when HIAT did not get the zoning approved last year," she said. "He has been in public school, and it hasn't addressed his needs. He was suspended seven times. I work 12-hour shifts in the steel mill. I want the best for my son. What this school is offering — music and dance — it will give kids something to do. I need HIAT."
Hobart resident Jennifer Trpeski said she has four children and she is eager for the school to open. Theresa Cowart, of Crown Point, said she has four adult children who were educated at Gary Community School Corp. schools, but she supports charter schools. She said the new school would give parents and their children a choice.
Andrea Brooks-Delaney, of Merrillville, said she has three daughters and she supports a charter school in her town.
The Indiana Charter School Board initially had scheduled the public hearing for three schools — Heritage, Gary Passport Academy and Premier High School of Gary. Board Executive Director Claire Fiddian-Green said the board received several complaints about the hearing for the two Gary schools being hosted in Crown Point. Those who complained said it would cause transportation problems for people who may want to attend the hearing.
Fiddian-Green said another public hearing will be held next week in Gary.
Henderson initially submitted an application to the Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University, but the school at the time did not have a location or the money to open.
Henderson said after the meeting her charter school has a potential deal with the owners of Laurel Church Ministries, 7525 Taft St., to use its building contingent upon the charter school's approval. She said rather than working with a charter school management company, the school would use a consultant.
If approved, the school would open in the fall and be geared toward students in kindergarten through sixth grade. It eventually would expand to eighth grade.