SOUTH BEND - Amid negative reaction from Riley Early College High School students whose program is currently housed there, South Bend's school board six weeks ago postponed a vote on turning the old Studebaker School building into South Bend New Tech High School.
Taking a step back, the board on Monday voted 4-3 in favor of hiring an architectural firm to study the feasibility of transforming the building into a New Tech high school.
But the firm, CSO Architects, from Indianapolis, will also assess the old Gates building on Western Avenue for the same potential purposes.
For both studies, the company will charge a discounted fee of $9,000, which will be financed via donations.
Jay Caponigro, Bill Sniadecki and Stephanie Spivey voted against the measure.
"This motion puzzles me," Caponigro said before the vote. With the school corporation in the midst of a full-scale, districtwide feasibility study thats being done by another architectural firm, why, he wondered, couldnt the assessment of the Studebaker building be rolled into it?
Whats more, Caponigro said, Hebard & Hebard, the firm conducting the facilities study for the corporation, has said it would charge an additional $4,500 to include the Gates building.
Though the $9,000 thats being paid to CSO is not corporation money, Caponigro said, it isn't good stewardship of funds to spend more for such potentially similar services.
New Tech, which is its own school, opened with about 100 freshmen this fall in a special wing of Riley High School.
Each year, an additional 100 freshmen will be added until the school serves freshmen through seniors.
However, the wing at Riley is too small, administrators have said, to accommodate 400 students.
At the meeting, Carole Schmidt, superintendent of South Bend schools, also gave the board an update on fundraising for New Tech.
The school's startup costs include $450,000 to join the New Tech Network, which supplies curriculum, an online student management system, teacher training and support and more.
Taking into consideration a challenge grant issued by 1st Source Bank, some $509,000 will be raised by the end of this year, Schmidt said, making fundraising efforts on track so far.
For 2012, an additional $600,000 is needed and $475,000 more is needed in 2013. Currently, 10 percent of those funds has been raised.
Sniadecki said he is concerned about going forward with a separate facility for the school when so much money still needs to be raised.
"This was supposed to be funded by outside sources," he said of the startup costs for New Tech. "This is far from what were going to need to support it."
Several board members asked for clarity on the timeline of motions that were passed by the board -- or that failed -- related to the school corporation's financial commitment to New Tech.
Schmidt said she would gather the information and report back.