Greencastle Community Schools will pull out of the Old National Trail special education services cooperative when its contract with ONT expires in June 2010.
"For a couple of years we've been looking at doing this," said Greencastle Schools superintendent Robert Green. "We've been losing students, and our cost (to belong to the co-op) has continued to go up. We came to a conclusion that we could do a better job and be more efficient if we found other ways to provide services to our special needs students."
Green said the Greencastle school district puts about $2 million into ONT annually. Close to 400 Greencastle students utilize services provided by ONT.
"This has had my attention for a couple of years," Green said.
Green said he has asked for studies into services and fees to be done by ONT, but it has never come to pass.
"Obviously we're not satisfied, or we wouldn't be pulling out," he said.
ONT provides physical, occupational and speech therapy to member schools, as well as psychologists and services for hearing and sight impaired students.
"I believe the Greencastle School Board voted 4-0 to pull out," said Nancy Holsapple, ONT executive director. "I was very surprised."
Holsapple said, to her knowledge, Greencastle had been with ONT since the cooperative's beginning in the 1970s. She expressed concern about the school corporation's ability to provide services for its special needs students without the help of ONT.
"It's just really difficult for school corporations to do special needs on their own," she said. "It's very costly."
Green said there would be "no drop in services" to Greencastle's special needs students.
"We have to supply those services," he said. "We don't have a choice."
Green said the decision for Greencastle to pull out of ONT was mostly fiscal.
"We can't print money to pay our bills," he said. "It's time to move on. We're looking at every avenue to save money."
Green said the school corporation had already had a study done to see how much money the district will save by pulling out of ONT, and that the amount is "substantial."
"We're going to be able to save X number of dollars and provide equal or better services," he said. "I've been working on a lot of different things with regard to the budget lately, but this has never been far from my mind."
Green said the decision to leave special needs cooperatives was not something exclusive to Greencastle.
"I know of at least four other districts (in Indiana) that are pulling out of their cooperatives, and I know that others are looking at it," he said. "We're not the only ones who are doing it."