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State officials plan Gary meeting to weigh uncertain future of Roosevelt school
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State officials plan Gary meeting to weigh uncertain future of Roosevelt school

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Gary Roosevelt High School NEW

GARY — Indiana State Board of Education staff will meet later this month in Gary to discuss the uncertain future of Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy.

The board's public meeting will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 in Room 105 of the Anderson Library Conference Center on the Indiana University Northwest campus and will discuss the effect on students uprooted from the Roosevelt school during last February's polar vortex.

SBOE staff will lead the meeting, which will allow for community feedback through a number of moderated small group tables. Responses will be collected and presented to the state board at its next business meeting on Jan. 15 in Indianapolis.

This will be the only public meeting conducted by board staff ahead of the Jan. 15 meeting, a SBOE spokeswoman confirmed.

The Dec. 16 forum follows a series of tense board meetings in which Gary residents have pushed the state to intervene in operations of the school currently housed in the Gary Area Career Center.

State board staff recommended study of the situation at Roosevelt — academics, facilities and nearby education alternatives included — in the SBOE's November business meeting.

Students were first displaced from the historic Roosevelt school building at 730 W. 25th Ave. after last February's polar vortex.

Weather-related flooding from frozen and burst pipes, along with damage sustained in a fire sparked by faulty wiring, extended students' stay at the Gary Area Career Center through this school year.

But, as the Gary Community School Corp. looks to expand its career center offerings, school officials say they will not have room to house Roosevelt students at the Gary Area Career Center next year.

Repairs at the Roosevelt school building could cost the cash-strapped Gary Community School Corp. more than $10 million to bring the 90-year-old building into operable condition. And, although the Gary district is seeking additional estimates on needed repair work, several other options are on the table for next year.

Students' current placement at the Gary Area Career Center has also brought attention to the school's management structure, operated academically by for-profit education services provider EdisonLearning.

EdisonLearning was first selected as a turnaround partner for the Roosevelt school in 2011 when the state approved a takeover of Roosevelt and four Indianapolis Public Schools following years of declining academic performance.

EdisonLearning continued academic management of the school after the state takeover ended in 2017 through an innovation network agreement struck with the Gary Community School Corp.

In the agreement, EdisonLearning oversees teaching staff, classroom management and academic achievement, while Gary Community School Corp. is responsible for providing and maintaining the school's facilities.

State board members and Gary families in recent meetings have called into question the continuance of the innovation agreement, citing low test scores this year and the disruption to learning caused by some students being taught in garage bay space at the Gary Area Career Center as the school grapples with facilities challenges.

SBOE action could direct academic control of Roosevelt be returned to the Gary Community School Corp., allow EdisonLearning to stay the course or close the school altogether. All scenarios are likely to be discussed in the Dec. 16 meeting.

EdisonLearning maintains academic standards are being met and learning conditions for students are appropriate with only six of the school's 26 classes being taught in the garage bays with climate control available to EdisonLearning staff.

"We will continue to work with the Gary Community School Corporation and the Indiana State Board of Education to determine the best, safest and most appropriate facility for the students in the future," EdisonLearning officials said in a November letter to parents. "We are committed to ensuring that the students of Roosevelt have a quality education, and that all of our actions and decisions will be made with what is in the best interest of your children being first and foremost."

EdisonLearning encourages parents to attend the Dec. 16 meeting, a spokesman told The Times on Wednesday.

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