VERMILLION COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – After declining enrollment forced an elementary school to shut its doors, its new purpose could still serve the children of the community.

Ernie Pyle Elementary closed in May of 2023, but local leaders are now talking about turning it into a childcare facility.

“It was a tough decision for us. But when the economic development commission came out and talked to us about the possibility of purchasing the facility to use as an early childhood center, we thought wow, this is a great opportunity, a win-win for everybody in our community,” Dave Chapman, Superintendent of South Vermillion School Corporation, said.

Doug Hess is the Executive Director of Vermillion County Economic Development, and he said they have been aware of the lack of childcare within the county and the state.

“Economic Development has teamed up with Redevelopment to tackle this need of childcare in Vermillion County. So when this school became vacant in May of this year, we joined conversations with the school board and their process of purchasing this building,” Hess said.

A survey was put out by the Redevelopment Commission last week to determine the feasibility of childcare facility in Vermillion County.

“It’s kind of like when you’re doing your research, you have your hypothesis that you believe something is going to happen but you’re looking for the data to back that up,” Hess said.

If the building is purchased, Hess said the Redevelopment Commission would own the building, and they would get an outside company to handle the day-to-day operations.

Both Chapman and Hess said they hope the survey will shed light on the childcare needs in the county, to help provide a better quality of life for current and future residents.

“Actually this was kind of like a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t necessarily originally on our radar when we were tackling this. But then during our meetings and conversations, we realized finally that this was going to become available. It made sense because it was a former elementary school and we are looking to house children for child care and so to us, it looked like a good match,” Hess said.

The survey will be available until mid-October.

Hess said from there, they hope to have a full report on the findings before Thanksgiving.