A former middle school building the Fort Wayne Urban League once considered buying for $180,000 is now being offered as a gift from the owner, Salin Bank.
School board members of Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, a new charter school overseen by the Urban League, heard about the offer Monday from board President Will Clark.
William Salin, CEO of Salin Bank, offered to give the former Village Woods Middle School property and building to the Urban League last week, Clark said.
Clark left a message for Salin, saying the board needed time to discuss the matter and would like 90 days to render a decision, but he has not yet heard back from Salin, he said.
If this (charter school) is successful, then we will be under a lot of pressure to do it again, Clark said.
Several options were brought up, including considering the southeast Fort Wayne site for a preschool, another K-8 charter school, a high school or tearing down the existing building and constructing a new one.
Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray cautioned against moving too quickly without investigating the costs involved.
That building would need about $6 million in renovations to get it up to speed, Ray said.
Ray said there may be other available property that someone is willing to give to the Urban League that doesnt require such costly modifications or the razing of buildings.
Board member Bettye Poignard said the board needs to set some goals before making a decision.
We need to know what our priorities are, for instance, is creating a high school a higher priority than another K-8 charter school? Poignard said.
The board meeting followed the first day of classes at Thurgood Marshall, currently just down the street from the Urban League in the former Zion building at 2313 S. Hanna St. Originally, the Urban League had intended to start the charter school in the former Village Woods Middle School building within the boundaries of the East Allen Community Schools district.
Principal Nicole Chisley said 116 of the 172 registered students showed up for classes.
The school called all of those who were absent, and Chisley said she is confident the numbers will improve within a day or two.
The absenteeism was due to a number of factors, including several families who kept their children home because they did not yet have the school uniforms – navy pants or skirt and burgundy polo shirts, she said.
Although there were some glitches to work out with technical equipment and with pickup and drop-off points for parents and students, the core element of the school – teaching and learning – was evident, Ray said.
Weve got some growing pains, but it was amazing how responsive the kids were on the very first day, he said. Weve got a very good group in there.
I hope that today was indicative of the next day, Ray said.
Its a dream come true.
The Indiana Charter School Board approved the creation of the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy in December.
While the Urban League oversees the social justice-themed school, it is run by American Quality Schools Corp.