Crusader Staff Report
Gary’s storied Roosevelt College and Career Academy is being considered for closure as heating and infrastructure issues frustrate Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley.
Hinckley already has plans to close either West Side Leadership Academy or Wirt-Emerson as part of an ongoing effort to reduce over $100 million in debts that have crippled the Gary Community School Corporation.
Now, Hinckley is considering closing Gary’s oldest and iconic Black school.
In a news report, Hinckley said she receives a lot of complaints about heating and other problems at Roosevelt, located at 730 W. 25th Ave. The problems added to the lingering concerns that have dogged Roosevelt over the years.
Since 2011, Roosevelt has been managed by the private EdisonLearning Corporation, after it received years of consecutive “F” grades from the state. For the first time in seven years, Roosevelt improved to a “D” grade.
During a community meeting in 2016, parents and teachers packed the school before Indiana Board of Education officials decided to renew its five-year contract with EdisonLearning, worth nearly $5 million.
While EdisonLearning is responsible for turning around Roosevelt, the school district pays for the maintenance costs.
Gary School Board member Carlos Tolliver has been a staunch critic of EdisonLearning’s contract, saying it was a bad decision and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
At a forum Hinckley hosted on January 23, one speaker said Roosevelt should be closed instead of Wirt-Emerson or West Side. Another speaker stated the school district should close Roosevelt to save money and that EdisonLearning is getting richer from its multimillion-dollar contract with the school.
Other speakers gave their support for Roosevelt saying it should stay open.
Hinckley is meeting with EdisonLearning officials soon to discuss the future of Roosevelt. She reportedly proposed moving Roosevelt’s 500 students to another school in better condition.
Founded in 1922, Roosevelt was built for Blacks during segregation when white parents and students in Gary did not want people of color in their classrooms. Since then, the school has built a roster of prominent alumni in politics, entertainment and sports. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, State Senator Eddie Melton, Earline Rogers and several members of the musical Jackson family have graduated from Roosevelt.
For now, the two schools that have a stronger chance of being closed are West Side or Wirt-Emerson. West Side is getting a lot of support from parents and a feasibility study concluded that West Side is in better shape than Wirt-Emerson.
Hinckley will present her recommendations to Indiana’s Distressed Unit Appeal Board in March.