Alternative schools in South Bend may be forced to close

The director of The Crossing says next year he will be forced to use private donations to bus his South Bend students to the program’s school in Elkhart.

Story Created: Jul 14, 2009 at 7:17 PM EDT
Story Updated: Jul 14, 2009 at 9:23 PM EDT

SBFrontSOUTH BEND — For years, they’ve helped students get back on track after getting kicked out or dropping out of school.

But they’re facing mounting money problems and now two alternative schools in South Bend are preparing to close their doors.

“This is not just school; we spend time with them, we have them over to our houses, we make dinner for them,” said Rob Staley, Director of The Crossing.

For three years, The Crossing has helped more than 200 students cross over from tough times to a path in the right direction.

“I was getting into a lot of trouble, skipping school a lot, wrapped up in the wrong things,” one student told WSBT News.

“They’re some of the most caring people I’ve ever met,” another student said.

With eight locations across Northern Indiana, the alternative school knew South Bend would be among its most important.

“We moved into South Bend recognizing there were so many dropouts and so much crime and violence on the street, that we felt like at the very beginning when we started The Crossing, that was the first place we wanted to appear because we knew there was a tragic situation going on including kids dying,” Staley explained.

So they showed up and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. To stay afloat, The Crossing asked the South Bend School Corporation to help by giving $6,000 per student — a portion of what the corporation gets per student from the state.

“They would receive full funding and they would just transfer a portion of the funding to us,” Staley said.

But Monday night, the board voted “no,” citing a number of concerns.

Among them: The Crossing is “faith-based,” and, according to one member, the corporation could get into legal trouble for forming a partnership.

Another member said she couldn’t support it because the superintendent hadn’t given a recommendation either way.

The director of The Crossing says it means next year he will use private donations from South Bend to bus his South Bend students to the program’s school in Elkhart, where it has partnered with that city’s school district.

“Because we have made a commitment to them that we will provide them with an education,” Staley explained.

It doesn’t look good for Central Academy either — an alternative school housed at the Juvenile Justice Center in South Bend.

Without funding from the South Bend School Corporation, it too would have to close.

“We had hoped to get on the agenda over the last two months and have not been able to get on the agenda for a vote,” said Vicki McIntire, Central Academy’s director.

McIntire says her school’s request was much like The Crossing’s.

“If you’re not educating them, share the money with us and let us educate them,” she said.

Now with no vote from the board, McIntire says it is likely too late to keep her doors open next year.

“We believe we should’ve been funded, and still hope somehow some miracle will happen, but it may be too late for us,” she said.