Brownsburg Challenger Learning Center to close

Brownsburg Community Schools photo
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Students in the future may not get a chance to take a field trip to a Brownsburg science center because of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

"Even if you don't like science, it's still fun to get this hands-on stuff," said 7th grader Wade Overfelt.

Overfelt is having the science time of his life at the Brownsburg Challenger Learning Center. But he and his teachers know the countdown clock is ticking for the center to close. School board members decided they just can't afford it anymore.

"Every kid has talked about it this year. They are so looking forward to it. 'Oh, let's go to the Challenger Center again'," Overfelt said. "So we won't get to do that next year and that makes me kind of sad."

"Coming here is what can open up their eyes to a career in science or a career in math and seeing that it's a useful tool," said science teacher Roxanne Brubeck.

The Challenger Learning Center opened in 1994 to give students a hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math, simulating space travel. The family of seven astronauts killed during the 1986 launch of the space shuttle Challenger came up with the idea to keep their loved ones' memories alive.

The widow of shuttle commander Dick Scobee told Eyewitness News by telephone Tuesday, if necessary, she will help Brownsburg fight to keep the center open.

"If it needs a new home, a new address, well, I will be there knocking on doors to help people find that," said Dr. June Scobee-Rodgers.

There is no way to tell that the future is bleak just by looking into the classrooms at the learning center. Students still go from classroom to mission control just as excited.

Every student passes through "the labyrinth," a hallway to get to mission control or the spaceship. It helps get them into the mindset about their mission to learn about space.

"It is so awesome to talk to mothers, sometimes, about they see their children doing things that they did not know they were capable of doing," said Mary Patterson, the center's director.

"It's so much fun, because it is just so realistic," Overfelt said.

Although a $2 million deficit for the center is a reality, for now, it is not stopping students from learning to boldly go out of this world to learn science.

Previous version

The Brownsburg Community School Corporation board voted Monday to cease operation of the Challenger Learning Center at the end of the current school year.

The district says the center has incurred a deficit of $2.4 million since 2002.

"It is essential that funds be directed into the classroom for Brownsburg students," said Supt. Dr. Jim Snapp. "The school corporation could no longer afford to subsidize the education of students from other districts by filling the gap in revenue for the Challenger Learning Center. This difficult decision will end a long standing program; however, it will strengthen services to our students in our schools."

A spokeswoman says Brownsburg students paid over $21,000 in fees in 2012 in an effort to subsidize and keep the CLC open.

CLC permanent staff will be offered other Brownsburg schools positions.