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Resolution seeks collaboration between city and schools

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 5:47 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Some are concerned that closing two South Bend schools could lead to the deterioration of nearby neighborhoods.

The school administration has recommended that Tarkington and Hay schools close at the end of the academic year.

While the school board is expected to take a final vote on February 22nd, the South Bend Common Council on Monday will consider a resolution that seeks delay and more discussion.

“Under no circumstances is this resolution intending or desiring to tell them how to make these necessary choices,” council member Lori Hamann told 16 News Now. “We are just asking that they include the Common Council in the conversation.”

2020 started out on a collaborative note. On February 25th, a joint meeting of the South Bend Community School Board of Trustees and the South Bend Common Council held a joint meeting with the expectation that many more would follow.

“And COVID has been very unfortunate. It’s made it so that we have not had the meetings that we wanted to have with the schools,” said Hamann.

Now, with a proposal to close two schools on the table, some think its time to make up for lost time.

“The center of all neighborhoods is a school, and from that school, you have housing. From that housing there are jobs. And where there are jobs there is retail. So, it grows, it has a life of its own, but when we take that cornerstone out, all those other things fall,” said Councilman Henry Davis, Jr.

Councilman Davis is calling for a study on the economic impact of school closings.

The resolution simply seeks discussion and collaboration between the city and the schools.

“If it all shakes out and we find that yes, this is what is best for the school system and this is not going to cause any hardships in those neighborhoods, then we are fully in support of the decisions that the administration makes for their own purposes. We just really want to be part of that conversation,” said Hamann.

Late today, this joint statement about collaboration was issued:

Strong schools and strong neighborhoods are inextricably linked and critical to the health and vitality of our community. That is why South Bend City leaders and South Bend Community School Corporation leaders have collaborated closely, especially since Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings and Mayor James Mueller began their tenures.

“The time has come to address racial and academic inequities to ensure ALL students participate in and attend a high-performing school,” said Superintendent Cummings. “This means reallocating equitably resources into students and teachers. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the City to ensure that every student participates in and attends a high-performing school.”

“One of my top priorities has been to establish a close partnership between our City and School teams to ensure our teachers, students and neighborhoods can thrive,” said Mayor James Mueller. “I’m proud to see Dr. Cummings and the School Board taking the bold actions necessary to build a brighter future for South Bend.”

Background

The City of South Bend and South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) understand the critical importance of maintaining a collaborative and transparent relationship and have put into action that philosophy to ensure respective decisions are in the best interest of our families, students, and the wider community. Some examples of those joint actions include:

  • The Mayor and Superintendent meet monthly to discuss plans, goals, and our shared vision of what success for the city and the school corporation looks like. They share mutual respect and could not be more pleased with the mutual collaboration and accessibility.
  • Both teams have worked closely to administer the funds provided through the GEER grant program to connect students with broadband internet connections and WiFi hotspots via the Citywide Classroom South Bend Program.
  • As COVID-19 ramped up in South Bend and impacted more and more residents, both organizations jointly distributed a Public Service Announcement encouraging the continued and consistent use of masks to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • To ensure shared dialogue between the Common Council and the School Board of Trustees, SBCSC has proposed realigning dates of board meetings so that they minimize conflict with Council meetings.
  • On February 25 of last year, the South Bend Community School Board of Trustees and the South Bend City Council held the first-ever joint meeting at Nuner Fine Arts Academy. This historic meeting signified a commitment to work together, and that work continues today. Currently, School Board Trustee Dr. Ruth Warren and current 4th District City Council member Troy Warner are collaborating on the School Corporation-City Compact, which prioritizes high-performing schools, safe buildings, internet connectivity and internet accessibility, providing meals for students in need, offering tutoring services, and after school programs. This work continues the collaboration between the School Board and Common Council from their historic joint meeting last February.
  • The Schools and City worked closely to distribute food to families in need throughout 2020 as our community dealt with the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both organizations worked closely to set up eLearning sites at City of South Bend community centers to ensure SBCSC students had a safe place to learn remotely when schools were closed.

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