— August 25, 2016

 
At the August 25 Action Session, the Indianapolis
Public Schools Board of School Commissioners approved a proposal to implement
the reconfiguration of grade levels in several IPS schools to enhance
opportunities for our middle grades students. Community feedback and district
data both support the initiative to transition away from the combined high
school model often referred to in the district as “community high schools”
which houses both middle and high school students in many of our secondary
schools.

 

Many of our families have expressed interest in
both dedicated middle schools (7th-8th grades) as well as
the increasing the number of elementary schools to serve students through 8th
grade. The proposal approved by the Board creates more opportunities satisfying
both options requested by our families. When the 2017-2018 school year begins,
five of our current elementary schools will expand from K-6 to K-8:

·        
George W. Julian School 57

·        
James Whitcomb Riley School 43

·        
Stephen Foster School 67

·        
Washington Irving School 14

·        
Wendell Phillips School 63

 

Two strategic shifts on the city’s east side will
allow IPS to provide targeted, age-appropriate supports for students along with
dedicated community support for families. John Marshall Community High
School will transition to a middle school, serving 7th and 8th
Grade students who live in both the John Marshall and Arlington Community High
School boundaries. Community partners will maintain a strong presence in the
new John Marshall Middle School as it serves as a hub to connect families with
valuable resources. Arlington will transition to a traditional high school
model, serving only students in grades 9-12 from our east side neighborhoods
(including current John Marshall high school students).

 

Another shift will be implemented to create a
high-level middle grades instructional environment for our students considering
a future in the healthcare or STEM fields. In response to the preferences
expressed by our families, a new medical/STEM middle school will replicate the
popular program currently at Harshman Middle School; this school will be
located in the Longfellow building. Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School
will phase out grades 6 through 8 this year, and all current Crispus Attucks
middle grades students will have guaranteed seats next year in our new middle
school, which would serve as a feeder program to the high school.

 

Our remaining combined middle/high schools –
Broad Ripple High School for the Arts and Humanities, George Washington
Community High School and Northwest Community High School – will gradually
phase out middle grades. Each school will serve grades 8-12 in the 2017-2018
school year before becoming traditional 9-12 high schools for the 2018-2019
school year. While our high schools will no longer house middle grades, these
schools will continue to serve as welcoming, supportive community hubs
for the neighborhoods they serve.

 

“Our commitment to the community – having
businesses and nonprofits as partners in support of our students and families –
continues to be our foundation,” said Deputy Superintendent for Academics Dr.
Wanda H. Legrand.

 

A dedicated middle school expansion team
including curriculum coaches, principals and teachers is already drafting
transition plans to ensure our educators are fully supported. Professional development
opportunities will begin in September for any teachers planning to transfer to
middle grades next school year. The team will visit other schools in our
community and in other cities which have successfully made this transition, and
will share best practices with our teachers.

 

As we move toward implementation of this plan in
the fall of 2017, we will continue open and thoughtful conversation with our
students, families, staff and neighbors regarding the future of our high
schools. With the transition to dedicate middle grades offerings, we will have
fewer students in our high schools and the need to consolidate will be likely
to provide the most appropriate conditions for student achievement by
redirecting operational dollars associated with maintaining underutilized
facilities to increase instructional supports. There will be continued
opportunities for public input as we consider the potential to have fewer high
schools in the district while focusing on increasing attractive and rewarding
choices for our high school students.

 

“I think that it’s important for us to put this
in the context of what we’re solving for,” said Board Vice President Sam Odle.
“I don’t think the broader community clearly understands the challenge that IPS
is facing by the number of buildings that we operate. Even though we are the
elected officials and we’re accountable for the decisions we make about the
assets that the school system has, I think in this situation when we’re talking
about major pieces of real estate in our community, we need to make the
decisions with a broader group of people – city government, state government
and the business community – so we can look at the other things we might do
with this real estate that are positive for the community.”

 

 Grade Reconfiguration

 

School Year Calendars

 

Commissioners also approved school year calendars for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The approved calendars include an
additional Parents in Touch (PIT) day in the spring to increase opportunities
for communication between our teachers and families, and retain our balanced
calendar format with two-week breaks in fall, winter and spring. An
important note for the current school year: students will not attend
school on Election Day, November 8. Staff will report for a professional
development day, but class will not be in session.
We have 30 schools
serving as polling sites for our local voters, posing logistical challenges for
allowing ample access to voters during the average school day.

 

ELEVATE Indianapolis Expansion

 

Commissioners received an update on the exciting expansion of the
partnership between ELEVATE Indy and Arsenal Technical High School. Teachers in
the ELEVATE program provide empowering character development and leadership
classes, and their students share the skills they’ve gained by serving as peer
mentors to younger IPS students. Harshman Magnet Middle School was our first school
to benefit from this outreach, and the pipeline will now extend to Theodore
Potter School 74. You can find the entire ELEVATE presentation here

 

JobSpark Career Expo

 

IPS has a strategic goal for every high school student to
graduate with a plan to be enrolled in a college or university, employed at a
livable wage, or enlisted in the military. As part of our continuing
partnership with Junior Achievement of Central Indiana (JA), the JobSpark
Career Expo will provide an exciting opportunity for all Marion county 8th
Grade students to explore ideas for their future course of study. The event
takes place September 29 and 30 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds; hands-on career
expo will give students insight into many careers including engineering,
agriculture, public safety, hospitality/tourism, health services, technology
and more. More than 7,000 students are anticipated at this culmination of JA’s
career readiness curriculum.