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Hammond, Indiana could lose 2 schools due to major budget shortfall

Hammond, Indiana could lose 2 schools due to major budget shortfall
Hammond, Indiana could lose 2 schools due to major budget shortfall 02:42

HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) – Two elementary schools in Hammond, Indiana, could close their doors as the School City of Hammond school board said officials are looking to fix a $15 million to $30 million shortfall.

Parents, teachers, and students were expected to gather outside of Tuesday night's meeting for a peaceful protest. Teacher's jobs will be at stake and students could lose their schools.

"To close this school would be one of the worst things to happen," said Mary Ellen Slazyk, a grandmother to seven kids.

Slazyk said three of her grandchildren attend Lew Wallace Elementary School, which could potentially close, an unimaginable thought for her.

"All the kids deserve better," she said. "My grandchildren deserve better."

The two district schools at risk of being closed are Kennwood and Lew Wallace Elementary schools.

Elaine Stepancevich has a third grader who attends Lew Wallace. If it closes, her child would have to cross a major street to attend another school and she has no confidence in the school buses.

"Busing has never been good in Hammond for the students," Stepancevich said. "They have busing problems every year. So, let's add more to that. They don't even have enough bus drivers to bus the kids."

Carlotta Blake-King, a member of the School City of Hammond board, said they've been working with the Distressed Unit Appeals Board, a state body that receives petitions from local political subdivisions in need of relief. They're working to come up with cost-cutting measures due to a failed referendum last November that would have authorized millions of dollars more for schools. Since 2019, five schools have been closed in the Hammond district.

"The School City is a mess," Slazyk said.

In addition, the board member said the district received funds provided by the Biden administration for the "loss of learning" to the tune of $63 million, but funding to address bullying, classroom aids and hall monitors were never used.

"Where has this money gone?" Slazyk said. "We'd like to know. It hasn't gone for our kids."

CBS 2 sought to learn more about why the schools could potentially close. The district superintendent was not available for interviews, but would take questions through email.

"Our kids' future is at stake," Slazyk said. "Hammond used to have a good educational rock for the community and now it's gone down, down, down. There's no excuse for that."

CBS 2 emailed Supt. Scott Miller several questions, but he did immediately respond to those questions.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

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