Sept. 22, 2017

Arsenal Tech

ON THE RIGHT PATH — Crispus Attucks sophomore Faith H. is studying biomedical science through the Health Sciences Academy at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School. 

On Sept. 18, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners approved the administration’s recommendation to close some district high schools, combine others and to create a series of College- and Career-Themed Academies to give students a jumpstart on their chosen career paths.

The academies, along with a variety of coveted Choice programs and 45 academic pathways, will be offered at Crispus Attucks, Shortridge, Arsenal Tech and George Washington high schools when the 2018-19 school year begins.

Attucks, however, is already ahead of the curve.

The school that educates students interested in careers in the medical field launched the Health Sciences Academy (one of six proposed academies) on July 31, 2017. It features pathways in Biomedical Sciences, Health Informatics, Physical Therapy and Nursing. Academy students engage in patient care, treatment, anatomy, physiology, diagnosis and preventative care. Next year, Attucks will add the Teaching, Leading & Learning Academy — featuring pathways in teaching professions and early childhood education.

The Health Sciences Academy is a hit with Attucks students.

“This has really been a great opportunity,” said Gavin C., a senior in the academy’s nursing pathway. “I’ve been here since my freshman year and I’m really learning the world more and expanding my mind and knowledge — not just with nursing, but also with germs and pathogens. I believe this is a good program. I enjoy it; I love it.”

Faith H., an Attucks sophomore in the Biomedical Sciences pathway, said the Health Sciences Academy is exciting because it’s taking her out of her comfort zone and providing new experiences.

“It’s pushing me to do things that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do, and it’s pushing me to get into advance college type of courses,” said Faith, “and I’m just really excited to be ahead.”

While the decision to close and/or convert some IPS high schools and buildings was difficult, the excitement and focus Attucks students have for the Health Sciences Academy is one of the outcomes Commissioners were hoping to achieve. 

“The IPS Board of School Commissioners made a bold decision in the continuing transformation of our district,” said Board President Mary Ann Sullivan, during the special called meeting to reinvent IPS high schools, where Commissioners voted 5-2 to close schools. Commissioners Venita Moore and Elizabeth Gore voted against the plan.

“Although the reinvention of our high school programming has generated interest primarily because it entails closing several schools, it is important to understand the bigger context for these decisions.”

The approved proposal includes moving forward with Crispus Attucks, George Washington, Arsenal Technical and Shortridge high schools starting with the 2018-19 school year. Centrally locating the remaining high schools was a key consideration when providing transportation since every student will have 100 percent choice when deciding what school they want to attend instead of going to the school where they live.

Arlington High School will be converted to a middle school and evening high school program. Northwest High School will be converted to a middle school and house the current Newcomer Program. Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall Middle School will be closed and sold for community reuse.

Two administrative facilities will also be sold. The Facilities Maintenance Division will be moved to the new Arlington and Northwest middle schools. Professional development services provided at Forest Manor, will move to Northwest Middle School.

Commissioners admit the decision to end some high school programs was painful, but they turned to the future — with all supporting a plan to provide expanded programming.

“Parents, students this is no time to stay home,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Gore during the Board vote. “Our Board has outlined strong expectations for student success to ensure that every student is either enrolled in a two or four-year college or university, enlisted in the military or employed at a livable wage upon graduation. The Board believes this can be achieved.”

“I will be supporting the proposal put forth by the administration and I will put my full attention toward making sure that each and every student impacted has a strong transition plan moving forward and an impactful high school education available to them,” said Commissioner Michael O’Connor.

The plan includes new and expanded programming with six proposed College- and Career-Themed Academies, Early and Middle College options, and 45 pathways to better prepare students to be enrolled, enlisted or employed when they graduate. This new high school experience allows all high school students 100 percent choice when deciding what high school they want to attend.

“I’m excited about the new opportunities planned for the schools that will remain high schools,” said Commissioner Diane Arnold. “They include vocational and magnet options on every campus, increased AP options, stronger athletic programs and a more robust educational model, meaning potentially big rewards for all of our students.”

IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee said the decision to reinvent IPS high schools is not a facilities plan. “It’s an academic plan,” he said.

“Our students were clear and adamant about having choice and they appreciated the opportunity to have more options for high school. This plan reflects the interest of our students and it reflects the interest of our staff members. Our students want all of our high schools to feel special,” added Ferebee.

Students at Crispus Attucks already feel and see the difference. The course offerings are more challenging, the classes are better aligned to students’ career goals and the school has also hired additional staff who actually work in the pathways offered through the Health Sciences Academy.

Students also believe that the coursework is preparing them for college and life after Attucks.

“We’re getting more experiences and opportunities here,” said Faith. “(The academies) are all for our benefit. We are already above other students and we can only go higher and higher. It’s all building us up.”