Eyes on education: Economic council meets with school officials

GREENFIELD — Hancock Economic Development Council conducted its March meeting ‘on the road’ at the Greenfield-Central Educational Services Center. Greenfield-Central Community School Corp. superintendent Dr. Harold Olin welcomed the board to this new facility for the corporation, which houses The Academy at Greenfield-Central and the Cougar Cubs Preschool.

Dr. Olin was asked about the history behind the project, as well as as the connection between economic development and our community’s education system.

“Greenfield-Central was fortunate this past summer to be able to purchase the old city library that sits directly south of our high school,” Dr. Olin said.

The 17,000-square-foot structure was built in the mid-1980s, but it quickly became too small for the library’s needs, Olin said. A church, which bought the property around 2006, had occupied the site for the last decade. They put the building up for sale after merging with another area congregation, Olin said.

Olin said the school corporation purchased the property with three primary objectives in mind.

Firstly, they wanted a close-by structure that could be used as an alternative education site — so the former library and church became the Academy at Greenfield-Central, which currently serves 53 high school juniors and seniors that want a different setting to finish their high school career, Olin said. In this setting, students attend either a 3-hour session in the morning or in the afternoon.

“Each of these 53 students has a little different story, but there are a lot of commonalities among this student body,” Olin said. “Many of them want to work for part of the day. Some take classes in a local trade school for part of the day. Others simply want a smaller, more intimate school experience with a lot of adult guidance and feedback. The goal of the program is to keep students enrolled in school until they graduate, while also allowing students to attain some of their goals outside of Greenfield-Central.”

Olin said the district was concerned by its graduation rate within the last 10 years.

“We wanted to do something deliberately different to support the 15 percent of our high school students who have annually been in jeopardy of dropping out,” Olin said.

Greenfield schools achieved its highest graduation rate to date, 91 percent, last fall, Olin said.

The second objective was to establish a preschool in the Greenfield area, he added, because economic development leaders knew the lack of licensed childcare is a deficiency that has halted development in the Greenfield area.

The preschool at the site currently serves the families of Greenfield-Central employees. It will also provide an opportunity for high school students to work with children.

“We have taught child development classes through our Family and Consumer Science (FACS) department for many years, though some of our students could not participate in true lab experiences if they did not have reliable transportation,” Olin said. “This obstacle has now been eliminated, because our high school FACS students can now simply walk across the parking lot to have this experience.

This preschool will be open to the general public starting in the fall.

The third objective, to provide a space for professional development, is what allowed HEDC to hold their meeting on the road. Greenfield-Central’s 600 staff members have had difficulties continuing their training without interrupting service to their students, Olin said.

“Now that we have this new space, we use it every week,” Olin said. “The board of school trustees even moved the board meetings to this site that is much more accessible and spacious. We have hosted a handful of events for the public in the first few months, and we intend to rent the space for various events, because we can accommodate well over 150 people in the space.”

For more information about Greenfield Central Schools, visit gcsc.k12.in.us/. To learn more about the opportunities in Hancock County, call HEDC at 317- 477-7241.