Muncie students, parents raise voices over possible school closure
"Save our School" - that was the message from hundreds of parents tonight in Muncie, where school leaders are considering combining high schools to deal with fewer students and fewer dollars.
When a school district is trying to cut costs and brings up closing a high school, even as a possibility, that strikes at the very identity of its students and graduates.
In Muncie, that potential brought out a big crowd.
"You're scaring people out of this community," said one Muncie parent.
Students and parents who packed a town meeting at Muncie Southside High School Wednesday expressed concern, fear and anger that the high school could close.
"There are several people and parents who are willing to leave the school system if it's consolidated," said a Muncie Southside student. "I think I speak for all of the students when I say this, 'We are proud to be Rebels!'"
Many of the more than 200 people in the auditorium were dressed in red, with "#Rebelnation" on the backs of their t-shirts.
Although no school has been named for potential closure, they fear the district will close Southside, as opposed to Muncie Central, in an effort to cut costs. That would combine the Bearcats and Rebels, rivals on the football field, into one high school with around 2,000 students.
"None of you live on the southside of Muncie. None of you go to or have kids that go to Southside. So what assurance can you give these people that when push comes to shove, that Muncie Southside and the south end of town is just not kicked to the side of the curb?," a parent said as cheers erupted from the audience.
Muncie school leaders are dealing with a challenge: declining enrollment and declining funding from the state and through property tax caps.
Board members have not made a decision on how to fix the problem yet. The possible options are wide open right now - from two high schools to one high school to a myriad of reconfigurations with the middle schools and elementary schools.
Board members tried to assure the crowd they'd make a decision based on what's best for the entire community.
"I know what it's like to be in a building that's closed. I know what it's like to have your student in a building that's closed. I hated it and I will do my very best, if we have to close a building, to be fair to all the people involved," said board member Robert Warrner.
Fairness, however, was questioned by many in the crowd, who fear the future in Muncie may be without one of its high schools. There's even a newly-created Facebook page, entitled "Save Muncie South."
This is an emotional issue.
In fact, several people at Wednesday's meeting said they didn't want to end up like Anderson, with a long-time high school gone.
There are three more town meetings scheduled to discuss how Muncie should cut costs and whether that should include combining high schools.