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Charter school plans win approval of Merrillville council

Updated: June 29, 2014 6:45AM



MERRILLVILLE — The town’s first charter school could open this fall, after receiving Town Council approval Tuesday night.

Augusta DeNeal, a member of the Tron-Agek Educational Foundation, said the organization needed to secure a site first and will proceed with the approval process through Ball State University, to which it has applied for a start-up grant.

“It’s up to Ball State if we open this fall or next fall,” DeNeal said.

East Chicago attorney Dawn Dawkins, representing Tron-Agek, took a positive stance.

“This really was our last hurdle,” Dawkins said of the Town Council vote.

Merrillville-based Tron-Agek is planning to open a charter school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math, at 8380 Louisiana St.

The school is to be called Northwest Indiana Science and Engineering (NiSc).

Five council members voted in favor of the special exception approval allowing the school at the Louisiana Street address and two members — Council President Carol Miano, D-3rd, and Councilman Donald Spann, D-1st — abstained.

Spann said he abstained because he has family members in public schools. Miano said she uses several Merrillville High School students to work election day and at the town parks.

At a previous meeting Miano said the town doesn’t need a charter school.

Her comment came after former Merrillville School Corp. Superintendent Anthony Lux told how charter schools take public funding from public schools.

Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, said this was a zoning decision, not a policy decision.

“There is absolutely no reason why we should be dictating competition,” Pettit said.

He said the school would open in his ward and he’s had no phone calls opposing it. There were no remonstrators at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, where the school also was approved.

DeNeal thanked the council and said Tron-Agek would support the Merrillville public school system.

Tron-Agek representatives have said they hope to open with 208 students in Grades 5 to 7, with a goal of adding more students and another grade each year, eventually having 400 students in Grades 5 to 12 by 2018.



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