District leaders: school closures likely in Muncie

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) – We are learning new information about the future of Muncie Schools as district leaders work to deal with a $15 million deficit.

According to the superintendent, building closures are likely and Northside Middle School could be first.

Nothing has been finalized yet, but district leaders say if closures happen, the school could sit empty or even be torn down.

Northside Middle School was built in 1969 and previously served as the district’s high school. Right now about 640 students attend Northside. That is only about 60 percent of the building’s capacity.

“Half the building is being utilized right now so any attempt to get the number of classrooms to match up with the number of students would have to start with this building,” said Robert Warrner, Vice-President of the Muncie School Board.

Warrner says closing this building would be tough. He taught there for 17 years, but he says the closure may be in the best interest of the district.

On Tuesday the superintendent echoed those thoughts.

“Southside is in far better shape. Northside is by far the most valuable piece of land we own,” said Superintendent Dr. Steven Baule.

It is valuable because it sits right next to Ball State University’s campus.

“Ball State would love to have that. There are some developers who would love to put a restaurant at the corner, also a hotel,” said Warrner.

Closing the school and selling the land could help the district make up some of that budget shortfall, but not all parents are on board with the idea.

“It devastates me. We moved to this neighborhood because of the schools,” said resident Shelly Foster.

Foster’s son attends Northside and her daughter will attend next year. She says the uncertainty is nervewrackng.

“It makes me scared to death it really does,” said Foster.

She wants the district to consider more community input and find alternatives to closing this building.

“We need to just join together as a community and try to make this decision together,” said Foster.

District leaders say they have to do what’s best for the future of the Muncie School District, even if that does mean closing Northside.

“It is sad, but it’s progress. We have to keep moving forward,” said Warrner.

Before making any decisions, district leaders are waiting on the results of a fact finder report. That’s expected to be complete later this month.

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