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Feature Stories for Thursday, May 3, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
The Crown Point Network offers a sneak preview of weekly cover stories.

SUV on cops' wish-list

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CEDAR LAKE - Town Councilman Dana Plant was successful Monday in his second effort to convince his colleagues to purchase a sport utility vehicle for the Police Department.
    The council originally considered - and rejected - the idea on April 10, but Plant put the item back on Monday night's agenda with the hopes that the council would reconsider.
    "We voted so quickly on it that I really didn't have time to explain what a benefit to the community it would be," Plant said.
    One concern of council members was that an SUV would cost more than a regular squad car.
    "Whether we get another vehicle or an SUV, we have enough money allocated in our budget to acquire either," said Police Chief Chuck Kouder.
    Kouder wants the SUV to advertise the new DARE program being implemented in the schools by Police Officer Jerry Smith.
    Kouder also mentioned that, last year, when the county was hit by a blizzard, the town of Cedar Lake was basically shut down until a nearby dealership let the town use its four-by-four vehicles.
The cost of the SUV would be about $26,000.
    Kouder was disgusted at the fact that he heard that he was wasting the town's money by purchasing an SUV.
    "I really take offense to anyone who feels that I am overspending by asking for an SUV. We are all trying to create a more progressive image in this town and by getting this SUV we would be doing that. Just think of the way people would look at this town with a new sporty looking SUV driving around. If we have the money in the budget why should I expect getting anything less than the best."
    The council voted unanimously to solicit bids for the new vehicle.


Board wants options on old C.P.H.S.

By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - A two and one-half hour bull session Monday led the School Board to tell administrators to come up with a demographic study showing where they believe student enrollment growth will occur, and a feasibility study on various uses for the current high school.
    The information is necessary, board members said, for them to decide which grade configurations to choose for the school system's buildings.
    The administration has recommended that - once the new high school is completed and the old high school is renovated - the six elementary schools house grades kindergarten through four; Taft house grades five and six; and the current high school house grades seven and eight.
    But School Board member Michael McCormick has led opposition to that configuration, arguing that it would mean too many school transitions for students; that two-grade schools are less effective; and that the 5-6 and 7-8 schools would have too many students.
    McCormick said school officials should do everything they can to maintain traditional kindergarten through sixth-grade elementaries.
    Also, the system should be more "customer driven," McCormick said. That means, for example, trying things like a kindergarten through eighth-grade school at the old high school.
    McCormick also argued that if grade reconfiguration is meant to address crowding issues at the elementary school, demographic projections are needed.
    And if the old high school is to be used as a school - or for anything else - he said, officials must know what work must be done.
    "I think voting (on grade configuration) before the research (is done) is getting things bass-ackwards," McCormick said.
    He called the decision on grade configuration, and how to use the old high school, a tougher decision than the one to build the new high school.

    Other board members have been more supportive of the administration's plan.
    Board President Byron Hubbard presented information on successful 5-6 schools in a Michigan community.
    "I'm convinced if you have the right people ... this kind of configuration works," he said.
    Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger said that the administration is "not wedded" to its configuration recommendation.
    It approached the matter under the assumption that all school facilities would continue to be used, and looked for the best configuration educationally, he said.
    But, Sprunger acknowledged, administrators are "scared" about what kind of work may be needed to renovate the current high school.
    "If it's a perfect world we abandon (the old high school)," Sprunger said.
Board member Bart Aiello proposed the idea of looking into tearing down the unsalvageable parts of the building and using the remainder for a middle school.
    If that is feasible, the board would then have to decide what to do with Taft.
    McCormick raised the possibility of abandoning the current high school as a school, and leaving it for community use.
    McCormick asked Sprunger if he could support committing the high school to community use - spending nothing to renovate it - and building a new elementary east of Broadway to alleviate overcrowding.
    Sprunger said he could.
But skeptical board member Thomas Hoffman suggested that wasn't realistic.
    "If you can sell this community on abandoning the high school, I'm right there with you," he said.
    The feasibility study on the high school should cost about $35,000, Slrunger said.



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