NEO's Adult Education, High School Looking for a New
DECEMBER 12, 2015 6:30 PM
JOYCE.RUSSELL@NWI.COM, (219) 762-1397, EXT. 2222
— For decades, the stately brick school building on Central Avenue on the
city's west side has been a place for second chances. It was the home to the Portage Adult
Education and Portage Adult High School for years before Portage Township
Schools got out of the adult education business. Neighbors Educational
Opportunities picked up the slack some four years ago, applying for and
receiving a state charter to run New Vistas High School, a public high school
aimed at providing classes for students 18 years and older without a diploma,
and an adult education program within its worn walls.
by the beginning of the 2016/2017 school year, the former Garyton Elementary
School will shut its doors as a facility catering to adult students. It could,
however, reopen at some point as an alternative high school.
Reiner, executive director of NEO, confirmed this week that her organization
has been asked to vacate the building. "We have looked at many properties
and we are committed to staying in Portage," said Reiner, adding they have
executed a contingent purchase agreement on a piece of commercial property
within the city's limits. Reiner added she can't say what that property is
until a feasibility study and financing on the new project has been completed.
Township Schools gave notice to NEO in February it wanted its building back.
Reiner said that was after attempts were made by NEO to purchase the building.
law requires a school district to lease vacant space to any charter school, which
PTS has done for the last four years for $1 per year. NEO pays for the
operational and maintenance costs of the building.
and PTS officials are working on a deadline for when NEO must vacate the
building. Reiner said the most recent deadline has been the end of this school
year, but that she is in negotiations with PTS for an extension if needed.
Superintendent Richard Weigel also confirmed this week the district is looking
to use the building as an alternative high school for Portage students. He said
the timeline is open and it isn't the school district's intention to force NEO
out of the building until it is ready to move.
said NEO administrators, staff and students are looking at the move to a new
facility as an opportunity.
serving 800 students in high school classes, high school equivalency
preparation, English as a Second Language classes and citizenship preparation,
she said she believes the facility they are looking at will provide
opportunities to expand services to students and their families.
percent of the students are Porter County residents and 43 percent reside
within Lake County. It is the only high school equivalency testing site in
said the 800 people served by NEO is a drop in the bucket. U.S. Census Bureau
statistics indicate there are more than 60,000 adults in Northwest Indiana who
do not have a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma.
want to make NEO a hub for continuing education in Porter County for
non-traditional students," said Reiner, adding they are looking at adding
certification classes in the trades or medical field to NEO's offerings once
the new facility opens.
said, while they have substantial community support, they are looking at
business and industrial partners to help guide, and possibly finance, the
effort to move to a new facility and design programming to increase high school
and career education efforts.
has received a $1.1 million loan from the Indiana Department of Education
Charter and Innovation School Advance Program toward the project.
was less than we'd hoped for. We'd hoped to borrow all the funds for the
purchase and necessary renovations," said Reiner, adding she estimates the
project will cost $4 million.
administrators are presently looking to borrow the rest and will launch a major
capital campaign to secure the debt. Once funding is in place, said Reiner,
they will be reaching out to the community, in particular businesses. She's
hoping to hold forums to help assess the needs of business and industry and how
NEO can help its students to train and learn to meet those needs.