Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation withdraws from partnership to convert Orchard Park Elementary to park facility 


Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation has backed out of a partnership with Carmel Clay Schools to convert the former Orchard Park Elementary site into a park facility.

CCPR Director Michael Klitzing said pending litigation regarding the site and a lack of financial resources identified to redevelop it proved enough reason for parks officials to alert the district in mid-May that they were hitting the brakes.

“Hopefully, some of those issues get resolved. If they do, we’re open to revisiting things,” Klitzing said. “Right now, it felt like there were too many challenges to us continuing the conversations in good faith.”

CCS approved a resolution in June 2021 outlining its intentions to partner with CCPR to convert the site into a park facility to be managed by CCPR but likely still owned by CCS. The parks board did not vote on such a resolution, Klitzing said.

In April, Indiana Classical Schools Corp., which has expressed interest in opening a charter school in the former OPE building, filed a lawsuit asking a Hamilton County judge to decide whether the school board’s June 2018 resolution should have triggered a requirement in state law to offer a vacant school building to charter schools for $1 before selling the property or committing it to another use.

The litigation is pending, with CCS expected to submit a response to the court regarding the ICS complaint by May 28.

CCS released a statement addressing the situation.

“Carmel Clay Schools recently met with representatives from Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation and they confirmed they are no longer interested in partnering with the district on future plans for the Orchard Park site,” the statement reads. “Our continued use of the property is not impacted by the decision. Carmel Clay Schools will continue to use the site to serve the needs of the district and community.”

CCS has argued that it has not been required to alert the state about the availability of the building because the district is still using it for meeting space, professional development, staging and safety drills.

ICS is seeking to open Valor Classical Academy, part of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative, beginning in the 2023-24 school year. As a BCSI school, Valor is set to receive free curriculum and other nonfinancial support from Hillsdale College, a small Christian liberal arts college in Michigan with ties to several conservative organizations and politicians.

ISC officials said they are considering other potential sites for Valor Classical Academy but that OPE is the “most fiscally responsible option” for taxpayers.