(September 19, 2017)-The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners approved the administration’s recommendations to reinvent IPS high schools during a special called meeting on Monday night. The vote to close schools was a 5-2 vote with Commissioners Venita Moore and Elizabeth Gore voting against the plan and Commissioners Mary Ann Sullivan, Michael O’Connor, Diane Arnold, Kelly Bentley and Dorene Hoops supporting the plan.
“Tonight, the IPS Board of School Commissioners made a bold decision in the continuing transformation of our district,” said Commission President Mary Ann Sullivan. “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 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 add the current Newcomer Program. Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall Middle School will be closed and sold for community reuse.
“After careful review and many discussions with fellow commissioners and IPS parents, I am voting no on the proposal,” said Commissioner Moore. “I am concerned it leaves our four remaining high schools all within four miles of downtown when our district is 75 square miles.”
Two administrative facilities will also be sold. The Facilities Maintenance Division will be moved to Arlington and Northwest high schools. Professional development services provided at Forest Manor, will move to Northwest High School.
The IPS Real Estate Advisory Committee, a team of local real estate and business experts, will work with stakeholders in each community as they consider bids for the properties for sale.
“It would be the easy thing to vote no tonight. It would certainly be more popular to some, but it would not be the right thing,” said Commissioner Kelly Bentley. “We need to do what is right.”
But, after admitting the decision to end some high school programs was painful, school commissioners turned to the future-all of them in supporting a plan to provide expanded programming.
“Parents, students this is no time to stay home,” said Commissioner Gore. “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.”
“Today, as difficult as it is, 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 to include 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 models meaning potentially big rewards for all of our students.”
“I remind you this is not a facilities plan, it is an academics plan,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “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.”
The board also provided verbal approval to market proposed academies to students. More details will be given at a later date.
The transition process will start immediately. A district transition team has been formed to oversee the process. Advisory teams for students, parents, teachers and community members will begin forming in October. Teams from human resources and academics will visit each high school starting today to talk to school staff about how they may be affected. Schools will distribute student companion guidebooks and schedule one-on-one meetings with school counselors to walk students through their options and get them ready to enroll in the high school program of their choice.
“The input we receive from students, parents, teachers and staff will be essential in developing an implementation plant that meets their needs,” said Commissioner Dorene Hoops.
Finally, the district will hold its annual Showcase of Schools on Saturday, November 18 from 10am to 2pm at the Indiana State Museum giving families even more of an up close and personal look at each program and the opportunity to enroll onsite.