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Co-op plans to move school

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FORTVILLE — Students who have become used to attending an alternative school at Maxwell Intermediate School in Greenfield will have a new place for instruction after spring break.

They’ll be heading to the old Fortville Elementary School, 1806 W. Ind. 234 in Fortville, pending board approval from the Mt. Vernon school district in January.

Hancock Shelby Madison Education Services moved forward with plans for the move from Greenfield to Fortville out of a need for more space.

“With the growth of students and programming, issues with storage and things of that nature, we just need more room,” director Karen Niemeier said.    

The alternative school offers programming primarily for 40 middle school and high school students with special needs each day.

“Sometimes, they need more behavioral support, but sometimes they just need a different perspective,” Niemeier said.

While officials have not signed the paperwork just yet, the cooperative plans to agree to a two-year deal with Mt. Vernon schools to pay MV $4,000 per month to use the building. Coupled with other costs for custodial work, on-site security, office furniture and more, Niemeier said it will equate to about the same cost – an estimated $50,000 per year – that the cooperative is paying Greenfield-Central for the space at Maxwell Intermediate School.

“Just walking through this building (in Fortville), I think the space looks very practical,” Greenfield-Central Superintendent Linda Gellert said. “It certainly is a lot more spacious and there is more space than what we’re used to working with.”

The cooperative’s board is made up of the school superintendents from the member districts. The agency administers special-education programs for the four Hancock County school districts as well as South Madison schools and Northwestern Shelby schools.

Officials at Maxwell Intermediate will now be able to use the space for growth and storage, Niemeier said.

Mt. Vernon Superintendent Bill Riggs told the board the old Fortville Elementary School is equipped with security cameras, so the cooperative should not have to spend more money on safety measures. However, officials will need to add digital lines and make some adjustments to get the building ready for students.

The move will also add a few miles to the commute for some students, but it will shorten the ride for others.

Board President Randy Harris said he’s already spoken with his transportation staff at Eastern Hancock and was assured they can deal with the change for the betterment of the program.

“It does make things a little more difficult for us, but the driver said we can handle it,” Harris said.

“The biggest piece we want to relay to parents and the community is we want to do what is best for all of the children,” Niemeier said. “We want to give the best possible services at all times for those who attend with us.”   

The move to a more spacious building will allow the cooperative to do just that, she said.

An estimated 12 to 15 staff and personnel will also make the move. While the building does have potential for even more growth for the cooperative, Niemeier said for now, there are only plans for a two-year lease.

“The ultimate goal for the Mt. Vernon School Board is probably to have this school reopen as a fully functioning elementary school again,” Niemeier said.

But for now, the cooperative will move forward with making it a home for students with special needs once the paperwork is complete.

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