(STATEHOUSE) Jan. 14 2009 - Rep. Cleo Duncan (R-Greensburg), Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) and other state legislators met with members from the Indiana State Department of Health to discuss the proposed closing of the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's home at the end of the school year.
The closing was announced last Wednesday and the legislators met with ISDH officials Tuesday.
Joining Reps. Duncan and Cherry were Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) and Sens. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield) and Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg).
"I was upset that the local legislators were not informed of the closing until they heard the announcement in the media last week," said Rep. Duncan. "We were completely blindsided by the issue."
The Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown was established in 1865 to serve as a residential school and home for Indiana children who are in need of care and education, with preference given to members of the armed forces and veterans. The home currently has 114 students in grades five through 12.
The decision was made after a three-year evaluation and assessment of the home by the department of health. Dr. Judy Monroe, the state health commissioner, said the home could not properly meet the needs of the students.
"I plan to work with the Department of Health to see if we can come to a bipartisan agreement that will best serve the children," said Rep. Duncan. "Our first step will be to define the purpose of the school. We should leave no confusion to the term 'at risk.' The second step will be to find a way to make the school financially feasible in order to properly serve its children.
"If the cost is $90,000 per child per year and they have a current enrollment of 114 children, we need to explore the possibilities that will keep the Home open by increasing the number of students and at the same time, make the school less financially cumbersome."
Rep. Cherry, Duncan and Saunders work with Rep. Scott Reske (D-Anderson) on a bill concerning this issue. The bill will provide opportunities to keep the home open, better define its mission and improve its overall operation.
"We appreciate all the people that have gone out of their way to contact their state legislatures in the last week," said Rep. Cherry. "All of their comments have been very helpful with this whole process.
"Many people have been positively affected by this school over a span of many years. I think we owe it to the people in the Knightstown area that we keep the home open, for the sake of those children that depend on it as a safe place to live."
Rep. Duncan and Cherry encourage constituents to contact them with any further questions, comments or suggestions regarding this issue. Reps. Duncan and Cherry can be contacted by telephone at the Statehouse at 1-800-382-9841 or by writing them at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. Rep. Duncan can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Rep. Cherry can be reached by e-mail at h53@IN.gov.