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Tiny Dugger school to start new chapter as charter school sponsored by Grace College

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DUGGER, Indiana — A tiny southwestern Indiana school that has struggled to stay open will get a new chance under an agreement that will turn it into a public charter school sponsored by Grace College.

The northern Indiana Christian liberal arts college plans to sponsor Dugger Union Community School Corp. as a charter starting in the 2015-2016 school year. The contract is expected to run for up to seven years, said Tim Ziebarth, the college's executive officer of academic affairs.

The move announced Wednesday marks the end of a two-year fight to preserve the struggling Dugger Union Community School, which has struggled due to declining enrollment and revenue. The school operated last year under the umbrella of the Indiana Cyber Charter School after the Northeast Sullivan School Board.

"I feel like a mountain has been lifted off my shoulders," said Kyle Foli, president of the Dugger Union school board. "This has been a two-year struggle. ... We finally did it tonight. Working with Grace is going to be fabulous."

The contract with Grace will authorize Dugger Union as its own stand-alone school. Grace College's role will be to ensure the school district follows the curriculum and financial guidelines in its application and meets performance targets, the Tribune-Star and Sullivan Times reported.

Foli said Dugger Union plans to hire a full staff of K-12 teachers. The school is expected to receive about $6,600 in state funding per student each year, he said.

"We won't be under anyone's umbrella. We will be a stand-alone school, K-12," Foli said. "This is exactly what we've always wanted, to be on our own."

The goal is to have more than 230 students enrolled when school starts Aug. 11; so far, 190 students have signed up, Foli said.

He said the charter decision is a "blessing" for the community and its students.

"There are a lot of people who said we couldn't do this," Foli said. "We proved a lot of people wrong. We're really excited, and we're eager to start a new school year and show people around here what we can do."

Ziebarth praised the community for its work to keep the school open.

"It's been really powerful to see a group of people that really rallied around this process," he said.

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