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EACS board says it won't sponsor charter school

NEW HAVEN – The East Allen County Schools board announced Tuesday it will not sponsor the charter of Timothy L. Johnson Academy, but board members said the district needs to improve its offerings in the area.

Johnson Academy, a charter school located in the district's former Village Elementary School, has been slated for closure by its current authorizer Ball State University. The school is currently seeking a new sponsor.

EACS board President Neil Reynolds read a prepared statement at the start of the meeting saying the consensus of the board doesn't support sponsoring the charter.

"We believe that the focus of the district's resources must remain on developing and improving our current school system," Reynolds read. "We are committed to every student in the East Allen County School district and promise to pursue the best in education to those students."

Discussion instead focused on what, if anything, the district would do to offer different options for students in the area.

Paul Harding High School closed for the 2011-2012 school year because it was at risk of being taken over by the state due to consecutive years of poor performance. Students who would have attended Harding were then to choose another high school within the district. A year later, the district opened the East Allen University early college magnet program in the former school, which also houses Paul Harding Junior High School seventh and eighth graders.

Board Vice President Chris Baker said he's committed to improving the academics in that area of the district, but the decision for the board is how to do it. During discussion some members called for an alternative school or an expansion of EACS' current alternative program.

The program serves high school students with emotional, behavioral, academic and other problems. Students are referred to the program or can request to attend the school.

Board member Arden Hoffman suggested a more online or virtual curriculum for high school students.

Other board members said the buildings in the Harding and neighboring New Haven areas are in desperate need of repairs.

Member Bob Nelson said it's up to the board to set strategic goals that will address this and other areas the district will need to improve.