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Painted in a Corner?

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For nearly a century, a school that straddles the Indiana-Ohio state line has been a symbol of harmony and cooperation between Hoosiers and Buckeyes.

Lately, though, the Union School of College Corner, Ohio, has been entangled in a legal battle that may lead to its demise.

Other than the fact that a painted line runs through the gymnasium to mark the state border--and that it accepts students from both states--the school operates on a day-to-day basis much like any other.

"It's not like we put a little 'I' or an 'O' on students' foreheads," says Marilyn K. Crain, who heads the joint board that oversees the school.

But the school has always lived a double life. It requires teacher certificates from two states, operates under two state boards of education and two curriculum committees, and even deals with two time zones.

The joint board, which includes seven representatives from Indiana and five from Ohio, has spent the past year fighting over an attempt by the Indiana members--and state officials on both sides--to close the K-8 school to Ohio students.

Richard Amick, superintendent of the Union County School District--the Indiana side of the joint board--has testified before a federal district court that personal relationships on the board have become "strained and unpleasant, making cooperation impossible."

The judge in the case ruled in June, however, that Indiana officials could not alter the operation of the school without consent from both sides of the joint board.

The Ohio members of the board want the school to remain open to their students.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State Board of Education wants to stop paying tuition for state students to attend the school.

About 100 of the school's 400 students are Ohioans.

But College Corner district officials appealed that decision in an Ohio court. A judge last month granted a temporary injunction forcing the state to release funds up to Sept. 8.

Funding for the rest of the year remains uncertain, however, and Ms. Crain says the school will not be able to operate without the Ohio money.

Ms. Crain expressed hope that the school would survive in its current form. "All we want," she said, "is to keep on doing what we've been doing for the past 100 years."--lj

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