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The Crossing seeks funds

Alternative school hopes to share state tuition money with district. By JOSEPH DITS Tribune Staff Writer Story Posted: June 23, 2009 SOUTH BEND — The Crossing alternative school only takes dropouts and kids who were kicked out of high school. One of them, Erik Bowman, says The Crossing saved his life. “I was getting into a lot of trouble, skipping school a lot, wrapped up in a lot of the wrong things,” says Bowman, 18, a dropout of Riley High School. “They’re some of the most caring people I’ve ever met.” “It’s not just school,” says teacher Steven Reynolds. “We spend time with them. We have them over to our houses, make dinner for them.” Now the school’s leaders say the South Bend campus is in danger of closing in a month. To save it, they made a pitch at the South Bend Community School Corp.’s board meeting Monday — a proposal to share funding from the state. The Crossing has raised about $100,000 each year to keep it open. The tough economy keeps it from doing that again, Executive Director Rob Staley says. So, here’s the proposal: The Crossing would sign up students from within the school corporation’s boundaries and teach them, but student performance records would be part of the corporation. That, Staley says, would help to boost the corporation’s graduation rate. The Crossing touts an 83 percent attendance rate in South Bend and a 93 percent passing rate on ISTEP tests. In return, the corporation would pass along most but not all of the money it receives from the state to cover tuition. It’s asking for $6,000 per student per year. Using the 32 students who are signed up for now, The Crossing calculates it would leave the corporation with $27,755 of the state money. That’s conservative, since the South Bend site typically has 70-some students, Staley says. Calling it a “win-win,” he says it would bring in dollars the corporation loses when a kid drops out. Of The Crossing’s eight campuses, Staley says, this is the only one that doesn’t have such a partnership with a public school district. Local districts with the partnership include Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp., Elkhart Community Schools and Goshen Community Schools. Other campuses stretch as far east as the Fort Wayne area and include a school in central Indiana. The South Bend school board this year decided to end an alternative school of its own to save money. Board members believed the RISE Program wasn’t effective anyway. Superintendent James Kapsa has said the corporation needs to find a way to reach those students. If the school board eventually decides against the proposal, Staley says, there’s a good chance The Crossing may buy some used school buses and bus the students to its other campuses. The next school year starts July 27. It follows an alternative schedule, taking a three-week break after every 45 school days. The breaks allow students to join in service trips to places like Haiti and Appalachia. Students spend three hours a day in the school itself, where they study via computers at their own pace. Then they take time for vocational programs, college classes or work study. Some students would have the chance to spend part of their day in one of the corporation’s high schools and even play sports for their teams, Staley says. The Crossing now is housed at 1820 S. Michigan St. If it continues, Staley says, it likely would move most of its students to space next to an academy of Vincennes University in South Bend. School board Trustee Stephanie Spivey says one of her concerns about The Crossing is its faith-based component. “We are Christians; we don’t call ourselves a Christian school,” Staley says. The other key challenge is school funding. “We’re in a budget crunch here,” Spivey says. “We’re in the midst of a recession.” WSBT-TV reporter Kelli Cheatham contributed to this story. —- View South Bend Tribune Article: Click Here]]>