A historical school is being forced to close its doors.
The Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home (ISSCH) in Knightstown is being closed by the Indiana Department of Health in May.
"The American Legion is planning on attending a rally on the steps of the state house in demonstration of the closing of the school," American Legion Post No. 2, Treasurer Tammy Young told The Brazil Times. "On Jan. 26, at 10 a.m., alumni of the ISSCH members of various communities and legionnaires will protest before the vote on Tuesday."
The 143-year-old facility has been housing the children of Veterans who have no family since former Governor Oliver P. Morton first established it in the early summer of 1865, originally founded to provide care and education to the orphaned children of the Civil War.
In March 1867, the state assumed control and in the 1890s the number of Civil War Veterans orphans were becoming obsolete, the legislature amended the law to include all children of service men who served in active duty in anyway.
Since then, all children of veterans from all wars are eligible for admission.
"This is an option for servicemen," Former Commander of the American Legions seventh District Herb Hoffman said. "If something were to happen they wouldn't have to worry about their children, the American Legion and other organizations will help take care of them through this home."
When Indiana took control of the home, children who are "at-risk," can also be placed on the campus as long as they passed the admissions interview.
"For many children (ISSCH) is their last hope," American Legion Post No. 2 President of the Ladies Auxiliary Judie Durbin said. "You can't put a price on children."
ISSCH sits on 419 acres that include an administration building, children's dormitory cottages, Morton Memorial School, a hospital, dairy farm and campgrounds.
The school is Kindergarten-12 grade school, where each classroom size may be between 8-10 students and the school is on the Core 40 system. Vocational programs are offered through the school in building trades, culinary art, broadcasting, business and veterinarian science.
Children have access to a skating rink, swimming pool, a movie theater and a recreation building. Children are allowed one week of summer vacation on the campgrounds. Field trips and other special events offer opportunities for children to leave the property.
The home currently houses 114 students, there were 25 graduates in 2007, 11 graduates in 2008 and an anticipated graduating class of 18 for 2009.
"I have been here for 34 years," Superintendent Paul Wilkinson told The Brazil Times. "I have developed strong bonds with the students and teachers here. It has been a privilege to work with them for the betterment of the children and I will continue to do everything I can for them."
The American Legion as well as other organizations throughout the state support ISSCH through monetary donationsand volunteering.
"Naturally we want to keep the place open and we are concerned with the cost, we are asking for more students on the campus to help lower the cost and utilize the campus," Hoffman said. "Students should be given the opportunity between juvenile and (ISSCH). At (ISSCH) they can receive the help that they need and still obtain a valuable education. Show me another senior class that is so motivated to go into the military."
According to a press release provided by the Indiana Department of Health, in fiscal year 2008, the state spent more than $10.2 million to operate the Home, which served 185 students, with an average cost per child per day of $249.88 and during the past nine school years, the ISTEP scores at the Home have consistently been well below the state average.
A three-year assessment, which included evaluations by the Department of Education, the Family and Social Services Administration, the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, and architectural contractors, found:
* A lack of a clear mission and admission policies,
* Failure to supply education and support to students in local communities, which includes the help of families and non-profit organizations,
* An inefficiency in both teacher-to-student ratio (1:5) and in the cost of educating students ($91,205 per student, per year), and
* The out-of-date conditions of the facilities, which would cost between $65 million to $200 million to modernize.
Members of the legion have many concerns with the findings of the state.
"Has the state really neglected it, is that why they feel the need to close it," Young questioned. "They live there and are cared for 24-hours-a-day, of course it costs more."
A portion of the dues for the American Legion go to pay for the students at ISSCH, and each individual post gives money and gifts to the students.
"I would personally like to thank the American Legion and the other patriotic organizations who have helped us," Wilkinson said. "They have always been there when we needed them and have shown the students that they can accomplish their goals."
Many legionnaires can't understand how elected officials can turn their backs on children who are in need.
"If we can bail out the banks, auto makers and everyone else why can't the government continue to take care of the students," Durbin said. "You can't put a price on veterans or children."
Petitions are located at American Legion Post No. 2, Reberger's Dry Cleaning and Phillips 66 Gas Station. For more information on ISSCH or the rally, contact the American Legion Post No. 2 at 443-8611.
What: Rally to save the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown
Where: On the steps of the state house.
When: Monday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m.
* Petitions located at American Legion Post No. 2, Reberger's Dry Cleaning and Phillip 66 Gas Station.