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The Crossing adding partners

South Bend, Mishawaka school systems consider joining. KIM KILBRIDE South Bend Tribune Staff Writer May 25, 2011 Nearly every public school system in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties now partners with The Crossing to provide an alternative education option for their most needy students. And officials from South Bend and Mishawaka, the two school corporations that don’t yet have formal agreements with the organization, are talking about pursuing them. Because of increased enrollment and other interest in the school, organizers from The Crossing are considering adding a Mishawaka location that would serve sixth- through eighth-graders. Rob Staley, director of The Crossing, said he’s been eyeing several locations, including a couple in downtown Mishawaka. Though no decision has been made yet, he hopes to have the new locale up and running by the beginning of the next school year, which is July 25. The Mishawaka school system is seriously considering working with The Crossing’s middle school program, Dan Towner, interim superintendent, said this week. “We think they have a solid program,” he said. As for the issue of at-risk high school students, Towner said Mishawaka has a program of its own for juniors and seniors and is in the process of developing another for ninth- and 10th-graders. South Bend’s school board, meanwhile, will talk about partnering with The Crossing at its June 6 meeting. Roger Parent, school board president, said the majority of board members are now in favor of working with The Crossing. Staley, meanwhile, explained that the school offers a “third level” of service for students who aren’t well served in their schools generally, nor through alternative-education programs. Dropouts and those who have had skirmishes with the law are candidates, he said, as are students who’ve had chronic behavioral issues and those who consistently earn failing grades. “We created an accredited, private school,” Staley said. “The purpose was to have the liberty to do what we wanted to do and service public schools. … We’ve become a net.” For the students coming in from areas such as South Bend, where no partnership with the school corporation exists yet, Staley said, students are charged tuition, much of which is covered by private donations. “If we have a partnership with a public school,” he said, “those kids belong to the public school. … In that sense, we’re like a program for a public school.” In fact, Staley said, school corporations that partner with The Crossing can actually make money since the cost of tuition the organization charges the school is less than the per-pupil allotment each district gets from the state. As far as the faith-based aspect of The Crossing’s program, Staley said it’s one that’s often misunderstood. “We are not a Christian school,” he said. “Our kids have gone through so much turmoil, so much mess, their lives have been such a disaster … (they) consistently want to bring up the topic of God.” “In order to have that discussion, we have to call ourselves faith based,” he said. Regardless of South Bend school board’s decision about partnering with The Crossing, Staley said, it’ll continue serving students there. “We’ll always be present to educate struggling kids on the street,” he said. “We’ll continue to be creative about securing funding.” The Crossing For more information on The Crossing, including a list of its current locations, check out Staff writer Kim Kilbride: 574-247-7759 Copyright © 2011, South Bend Tribune]]>