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April 27, 2017

 

It was a packed house at
the Glendale Public Library on Wednesday night for the first of several
community meetings to gather feedback on the recommendation by the IPS Facilities
Utilization Taskforce to close several high schools within Indianapolis Public Schools.

 

Members of the Taskforce,
Board of School Commissioners and IPS leadership were joined by nearly 150
community members to exchange information and ideas.

 

The meeting began with a presentation from IPS Operations
Officer David Rosenberg, who explained the reasons for the proposed closings. A
comprehensive study conducted by the Taskforce revealed that IPS enrollment
trends have dipped significantly in the last 50 years. Since 1967, the
overall number of students has dropped by nearly 80,000 students. There
was a 20,000 decrease in high school students alone. Because of that, high
schools are at less than 50 percent capacity. The goal is to push that up to 70
to 80 percent by closing some high school buildings. 

Community Meeting

The Taskforce’s recommendation
is that by moving forward with only four high schools, the district is
projected to save $4 million a year, which it will pour back into classroom
resources and teacher compensation.

 

“The word of the day is
‘equity.’ Our high schools are so underutilized, we don’t have the resources to
provide teacher development, the AP Honors courses, or other things that other
school districts that aren’t underutilized can offer,” said Rosenberg.

 

After the review of the
report, audience members met in small groups for guided table chats.  They exchanged passionate opinions about
their feelings on the recommendation to close high schools. During those
conversations, members of the IPS Leadership Team and Board of School Commissioners
moved from group to group to listen to comments and answer questions. 

 

After the small group
discussions, the audience came back together to share their group’s input.

 

 

IPS convened the Taskforce
more than seven months ago to look at a wide range of data from historical
population levels to demographics and school enrollment trends. Members also
considered factors such as academic models, utility and operational costs and
reuse of buildings.

 

The Taskforce is part of a
promise the district made in the  2015 Strategic
Plan’sCore Commitments and Beliefs; which is to make sure that all students can
achieve their full potential, learn at high levels and graduate prepared to
succeed in school, career and life. Any money generated from closing schools
will enhance student learning and teacher resources.  

 

 

Dr. Ferebee ended the
meeting thanking audience members for their time.

 

“We can’t emphasize enough
how much we appreciate you for joining us for this conversation,” said Dr.
Ferebee. “I want you to know that no decisions have been made. These
discussions will help us get there and we call on you to share with your
friends and invite them to the next meeting. Let’s continue the conversation
and figure out how to best serve students and families.”

 

The proposed timeline for
closing several IPS high schools has been carefully planned to include plenty
of community engagement to guide Board Commissioners in making their decision:

 

 

  • April through May 2017: The IPS Board of School
    Commissioners will hold several public neighborhood meetings to gather input,
    concern and feedback. 
  • June 2017: The administration will
    consider the feedback and make recommendations on which schools to close, a
    reuse plan for those buildings, and academic programming at the schools that
    remain open. 
  • July through August 2017: Commissioners will hold
    their regularly scheduled Board meetings at each high school recommended for
    closure to gather additional public comment. 
  • September 18, 2017: The Board will vote on
    which schools to close, a reuse plan for those buildings, and academic
    programming at the schools that remain open.

 

The next community meeting
will be at 6 p.m., Monday, May 1 at Ivy Tech Culinary Center, 2820 N. Meridian
St. For the complete list of community meetings, to share your thoughts, and to
read the Taskforce report, click here.