Carmel Clay Schools officials have been discussing the future of Carmel and Orchard Park elementary schools as it considers the impact of projected enrollment declines and aging facilities. It’s been suggested that either or both schools could be closed, which has mobilized parents from both schools to convince district leaders to keep both open.
Many parents have reached out to the Carmel City Council and the Mayor’s Office for assistance. Although some councilors have expressed personal opinions, the fate of both schools is with the school board, not city hall.
“We have a five-member elected school board, and it will be their decision,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. “We’ve done everything we can to encourage beautiful neighborhoods in both of these areas. I’ve always been impressed by the school board, and they’ve done a great job obtaining lots of public input before making decisions. It’s not the city’s role to make that decision.”
Brainard said sometimes constituents email him and ask that funding for a specific city project be spent on local schools. He said he understands that some residents might be from different states where the mayor does have control of the schools, but he said Indiana has a state-mandated separate budgeting process.
But that doesn’t mean the City of Carmel doesn’t cooperate with Carmel Clay Schools. Brainard said he meets regularly with school officials to share information but that they always respect each other’s processes. Instead of writing a check to Carmel schools from city funds, Brainard said the city helps by supporting quality of life that leads to healthy property taxes.
“One of the big ways we support the schools is by building a tax base that will be there year after year after year for the schools to use,” he said. “There’s a process for schools to raise the money they need to operate. We certainly support the schools and we can help them best by building a strong tax base.”
Brainard said he doesn’t want to publicly to urge the school board one way or another. He said he trusts the board and believes it will take public comment into consideration.
“The community needs to speak out about what they want and don’t want,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with the public involvement, and the school board’s record of taking public input has been very good.”
The next school board meeting is May 21. Interim Co-Superintendent Roger McMichael hinted at a town hall meeting it’s possible a recommendation on whether or not to close campuses could come as soon as that date, but nothing is guaranteed.