School board cites student safety in opposition to treatment center location
Officially weighing in on an issue that’s had the community talking in recent weeks, the Greencastle School Board officially took a stance on the proposed drug and alcohol treatment facility requesting a special exception just up the street from Tzouanakis Intermediate School.
No matter what the need for such a facility in the community, the four school board members present at a Monday work session put their concerns for school safety above all else.
“It’s not a risk that I’m willing to support,” board president Mike White said, “simply in the name of school safety.”
In a fruitful, hourlong conversation, White and fellow members Bill Tobin, Brian Cox and Lisa McCoy came at the issue from a number of different angles, but all reached essentially the same conclusion.
“To me, the danger to school safety may not be considerable, but it’s not zero,” Tobin said. “That’s not acceptable in my mind.”
The time was right for the school board to take a stance, as the question comes to a vote by the Greencastle Board of Zoning Appeals in a 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Greencastle City Hall.
The plan by the Bloomington-based Indiana Center for Recovery is to get the special exception to convert the former Ivy Trace assisted living facility at 815 Tacoma Drive into a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
The proposal is to develop an “in-patient medical detox facility” and on-site medical drug technology laboratory, City Planner Scott Zimmerman told the Banner Graphic recently.
While it is to be an in-patient, short-term facility with no visitors allowed, board members couldn’t help but question the wisdom of the proximity to a school.
During a recent question-and-answer session at City Hall, ICFR officials assured community members that the risk would be close to zero, with precautions taken such as building a fence around the 26-bed facility.
School board members said, though, that ICFR officials said they could not guarantee that a patient wouldn’t be able to leave the facility if he or she wished.
“Our kids are our most precious commodity so why would we take even the smallest of risk where their safety is involved?” Cox asked.
Board members didn’t necessarily express concerns about a catastrophic event, but wondered at the outcome if a patient, however innocent his or her intentions, wandered onto school grounds during recess.
Teachers would scramble to get students inside, police would be notified and the school would be placed on lockdown.
At that point, in White’s words, “that day is shot.”
McCoy took things a step further, addressing the emotional stress a lockdown places on students, even when fears are unfounded.
The former teacher recalled Sept. 11, 2001, when she was still teaching in Maryland. As bad as that day was, what was going through the children’s minds was even worse.
“The things that the kids were afraid of were far worse than what was happening,” McCoy said. “If you can avoid that, it’s far better for kids.”
Cox, who has a student at Tzouanakis, also spoke of the concerns such a situation would add for parents.
“As a parent, I always have concerns about my kids going to school and being safe,” Cox said. “I think of it as one more thing that’s going to be on my mind, whether it’s valid or not.”
While board member Dale Pierce was not in attendance Monday, White reached him on the phone during the meeting, with Pierce’s opinions falling in line with his colleagues.
In the end, the board voted 4-0 to send a letter to the BZA expressing its opposition to the proposal.
The overall tone of the meeting and the letter were summed up by Tobin when he said simply, “Yes, but not there.”
Board members expressed their regrets that opposing the facility could mean no such center is opened locally, as ICFR officials have given no Plan B if the special exception is denied.
“The bad thing is, it’s a no-win opinion. You either say you’re for it or against it,” White said. “And if you’re against it, that probably means it’s not coming here.”