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Ivy Tech eyes expansion into former EC elementary school

Updated: September 22, 2014 11:50AM



EAST CHICAGO — The former Field Elementary School will likely be brought back to life as part of Ivy Tech Community College’s East Chicago De La Garza campus expansion.

Pending the results of a feasibility study, Ivy Tech officials and Mayor Anthony Copeland envision the building, which closed three years ago, as the ideal spot to relieve overcrowding at the college’s Columbus Drive location. Copeland identified the school for this role two years ago in his State of the City address and he aggressively lobbied Ivy Tech Northwest Chancellor Thomas Coley with the idea.

“When I took an aerial tour of the Lakefront and North Harbor area, I realized that everything will flow from this point — Field School,” said Copeland regarding the city’s $38 million revitalization plan. “I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s happening.”

If the study suggests moving forward, Coley said, classes won’t start until 2016 because Ivy Tech will have to raise funds for updates at the school. The Columbus Drive location will remain open as part of a “One campus, two buildings” setup, Coley said.

“It’s a very solid building, but the facility is not quite up to college requirements,” Coley said. “We’ll need to purchase some furniture, and the computer and science labs will be need to brought up to college level.”

Coley said the study will involve discussions with industry and others to determine the viability of the location and demand for classes. It will likely be completed by October.

East Chicago campus president Louie Gonzalez said enrollment has varied between 1,200 and 2,200 students annually. Gonzalez said they have tried to make do with “creative scheduling” and converting a maintenance building and offices into makeshift classrooms, but it limits potential partnerships with local employers.

“It’s hard to attract business and industry as partners when you have these limitations,” he said. “So this presents a golden opportunity for us and the city.”

Those partnerships — such as the Steelworkers of the Future program with ArcelorMittal — will help put East Chicago residents in the pipeline for good-paying jobs, Copeland said.

“In talks with ArcelorMittal, PraxAir, BP, Safety Kleen, and St. Catherine’s, they’ve told me that — because of workforce turnover — they expect to have 5,000 job openings in the next few years,” Copeland said. “Ivy Tech is creating programs to fill those positions, which pay between $40,000 and $80,000, and help fulfill the city’s goal of hope and progress.”



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