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Gary, EdisonLearning close in on pact but not harmony

EdisonLearning Inc. hired private contractor plow parking lots Roosevelt College Career Academy Gary. The Gary Community School Corp. EdisonLearning expect

EdisonLearning Inc. hired a private contractor to plow parking lots at the Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary. The Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning expect to have a signed agreement dictating responsibilities soon. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:10AM

GARY — The Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning Inc. say they are in near agreement on a state-ordered maintenance agreement, although school district officials still haven’t signed it.

Both sides are still trading accusations. District officials said last week that EdisonLearning changed the locks and cut copper wires controlling the heating system at Roosevelt College and Career Academy.

An EdisonLearning official denied damaging wires. He said some locks were changed but master keys were given to the district.

The joint maintenance agreement governs responsibilities for the district and EdisonLearning, chosen by the state to operate the academically-struggling Roosevelt until 2016.

Todd McIntire, an EdisonLearning vice president, said this week he has signed the state-mediated agreement.

EdisonLearning’s contract is financed, in large part, from tuition support payments coming out of Gary’s budget. On Friday, the State Board of Education routed about $2.5 million in tuition support from the school district to EdisonLearning to run Roosevelt.

The state board vowed to intervene if the parties don’t reach an agreement soon.

“We both want to get it done,” said McIntire.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the district is concerned about the building’s maintenance. “We’re not trying to neglect our building. We have the biggest stake in the building,” she said.

For the past two years, EdisonLearning has had problems with Roosevelt’s heating system. Classes had to be canceled Dec. 13 because of a lack of heat.

Last January, several pipes burst, triggering flooding and cancelling classes.

EdisonLearning received a temporary restraining order from a Marion County judge who ordered the district to make repairs and clean up water damage. McIntire said the lawsuit would be dismissed once both parties sign the maintenance agreement.

At a Dec. 16 school board committee meeting, Pruitt said the district is providing Roosevelt and EdisonLearning with a “great deal” of support. She said five maintenance workers were at the school that day.

Pruitt said without access to the school, it’s difficult to manage. She said EdisonLearning obtained a building permit from the city last year to install new lockers without the district’s knowledge. She said wires were cut during the installation of the lockers. McIntire repeatedly denied that allegation.

He said EdisonLearning had an inspection of the heating system before the lockers were replaced. “Our inspector determined it was in a state of horrible disrepair.”

McIntire said the district had been manually operating the heating system because the controls don’t work.

Confusion is continuing on other responsibilities, such as clearing snow.

EdisonLearning hired a contractor to plow Roosevelt’s parking lots.

“Frankly, we couldn’t wait for the school corporation to come around,” said McIntire.

“Our contention is that it is a landlord responsibility, but we just couldn’t put ourselves at risk for having unplowed driveways and parking lots.”

School district building and grounds director Charles Prewitt told the board that crews began clearing snow on Sunday, but he didn’t check to see if Roosevelt was plowed.

“I’m almost sure they wouldn’t have skipped Roosevelt,” he said.

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