Recommendation to close Clay High School as part of Facilities Master Plan

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 11:44 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - During a school board meeting Monday, trustees heard a presentation from HPM about the district’s facilities master plan.

The purpose of this plan is to tackle declining enrollment and improve student achievement.

Consultants recommend closing Clay High School and moving the Fine Arts program to Riley.

Clay would remain a school through the 2023-2024 academic year.

Impacted students would be given priority during the school choice process, and dedicated staff would be assigned to work with students to ensure a smooth transition.

“There is empathy towards the Clay community on this. It is not a fun position to be in to stand in front of a community and say that this has to happen, but overall this is a bigger high school issue. This is not a Clay issue. Clay is a very good school with very good students, with very good teachers, with very good administrators, in a very good community,” said Tracy Richter, Vice President of Planning Services with HPM.

Other recommendations include supporting renovations at Washington High School for a medical magnet, creating a new career center, and developing strategic feeder alignment from primary to secondary schools with community feedback.

“Decisions have been made in the past that have kind of been isolated. And we really haven’t had a chance to have a holistic look at the system as a whole, and this is really intended to set the system on the right course,” said Scott Leopold, Director of Planning Services with HPM.

After several community meetings and online surveys, consultants say the community is aware that major changes are necessary in order to move forward.

The district recently asked the community for feedback on several different options, which included the possibility of closing down some high schools.

“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate you coming out and talking to us. They are hard conversations to have. They are not easy. They’re emotional. They are emotional to us; we are human, I’m going to tell you that. But not only the 1,900 responses but the personal conversations we have had across South Bend to make this as transparent as we could and to make sure every voice was heard in this was very important to us, and I think that this community responded to that,” said Richter.

The total cost for all of the recommendations comes with a $261 million price tag over the next 20-30 years.

The district is asking the school board to accept a plan at a meeting on April 17.