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Shutdown shutters classes at Starbase Indiana

240 fifth-graders forced from technology program

– Starbase Indiana, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics academy for area fifth-graders, is among the victims of the partial federal government shutdown.

Classes have been canceled for 240 students, according to a spokesman for the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, where the academy is housed.

Starbase closed Oct. 1 after Congress failed to extend federal appropriations into fiscal 2014. The educational program is funded by the Department of Defense but operated by contractors.

“We are hopeful they will be placed into the next continuing resolution or budget, depending on what’s passed,” Master Sgt. Darin Hubble, public affairs for the 122nd Fighter Wing, said Tuesday.

Hubble said 120 students from Indian Village and Heritage elementary schools had completed four of their five days at Starbase when the program was suspended. Fifth-graders typically attend classes there one day a week for five weeks.

Classes were canceled this week for 120 more students, from Heritage and Maplewood Elementary, Hubble said. A typical class has 30 students and offers lessons that involve robotics, rocketry, and 3-D design and printing.

The three-person staff at Starbase has been furloughed without pay during the government shutdown.

The local lab is among 76 admission-free Starbase academies funded by the Pentagon. Heading into the current school year, the Fort Wayne lab, the only Starbase in Indiana, had graduated more than 1,000 students since opening in February 2012. The entire Starbase program received $21 million in federal money in fiscal 2013, with the Fort Wayne site getting $300,000.

Hubble said some Starbase academies, including at the Selfridge Air National Guard base in southeast Michigan, have found alternative funding sources and remain open.