Appeals court rules Carmel Clay Schools did not violate dollar law


The Indiana Court of Appeals on April 17 declined to overturn a trial court ruling that found Carmel Clay Schools did not violate the state’s dollar law in its continued use of the Orchard Park Elementary building after closing it to students.

Indiana Classical Schools sued CCS in April 2022 for use of the former OPE building, which stopped operating as an instructional campus after the 2020-21 school year. ICS claimed CCS violated an Indiana law that requires public school districts to allow charter schools to pay $1 to use vacant buildings. ICS had been eyeing the building as a site to open a charter school, Valor Classical Academy.

In January 2023, Hamilton County Judge J. Richard Campbell granted summary judgment in favor of CCS, stating that Indiana law requires school districts to offer former school buildings to charter schools only if they are vacant and unused (previously the dollar law was triggered when school buildings were no longer used for classroom instruction).

The appeals court upheld Campbell’s decision and listed several uses of the Orchard Park building since it ceased to be used for student instruction, such as storage space, school resource officer training and office space for the district’s information technology staff.

CCS declined to comment on the ruling.

“Although our appeal was denied, the appeal process itself served a valuable purpose in our pursuit of Orchard Park,” stated Holly Wilson, a founding Valor board member. “We intend to pursue Orchard Park to the fullest extent of the law. Our board remains committed to securing an appropriate building for the benefit of Hoosier families who are waiting to enroll in Hamilton County’s first K-12 tuition-free, classical charter school.”

According to its February newsletter, ICS officials are continuing to search for a site to open Valor Classical Academy. They ended lease negotiations for a potential site at 10330 N. Meridian St. in Carmel and were considering other possibilities in the Carmel area.

“Our founding board remains committed to opening Valor in Hamilton County,” the newsletter states. “It may seem like we’re back at the beginning, but in truth, we’re just in the middle of a very challenging startup process, which is not uncommon in this endeavor.”

Because of the difficulty in securing a building, Valor delayed its anticipated fall 2023 opening and forfeited $400,000 in grants, according to the newsletter. It is working to apply for other grants available to charter schools.

The newsletter also stated that during a five-business-day early enrollment period, Valor received applications from 48 families in nine cities and 10 school districts, with half of the interest from students in Carmel.