(May 2, 2017)–The second Indianapolis Public Schools Community Meeting convened at the Ivy Tech Culinary Arts Center Monday night to gather feedback on the Facilities Utilization Taskforce recommendations to close some high schools.
Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee reminded the crowd that no decision has been made at this point.
“At the core, we want to enhance the experience and make sure every student graduates prepared for college or career. To do that, we want to make sure we maximize the resources,” said Dr. Ferebee.
The Taskforce has released a comprehensive report detailing its recommendation that IPS should operate four high schools starting in the 2018-19 school year. That recommendation is based upon several trends and analysis projections for the next 10 years.
The Taskforce has said that by moving forward with only four high schools, the district projects at least $4 million in savings annually by rightsizing facilities. The district is poised to reinvest these savings into academic programs, teacher compensation and support services for students. By reducing the number of IPS high schools – most are currently operating at less than 50 percent capacity – the district plans to enhance and strengthen students’ overall high school experience. Students will be able to take advantage of more academic rigor, explore additional interests, enjoy stronger extracurricular options and benefit from more strategic supports connecting them with college and career opportunities.
Dr. Ferebee also reiterated that IPS has not received state revenue at the same level it’s received in the past.
“We get $1000 less per student and when you multiply that by 30,000 students, we’re getting much less than what we used to. The savings we generate will also help make up for that loss,” said Dr. Ferebee.
Over the last 50 years, IPS student enrollment has dramatically decreased from 109,000 students in 1967 to around 30,000 students currently. The district has an average of 763 students per building and a total utilization rate of 37 percent across IPS-operated high school facilities.
“With academics being the main consideration, we looked at the detailed challenges,” said David Rosenberg, IPS Operations Officer. “Support and resources are spread thin giving less opportunities for students and for teachers to grow.”
The audience included several students from Shortridge International Baccalaureate High School who weighed in on the future of their education. First, they expressed some excitement about the money the district will generate by closing schools and what that could mean for enhancing their education. But, they had some concerns too. They wanted to know what would happen to their teachers. They also wondered what will happen to the legacies and programs of the schools closed.
IPS continues to reinforce that any choice programs in schools that are closed will be moved to other schools. No choice programs will be lost. District officials have shared that plans would be put into place – with the help of the community – to properly honor and preserve the rich history of high schools that would close. Officials have also stated that experienced transition teams would help ensure that school environments are conducive to welcoming all students.
“There are many things IPS does well and that’s programming. I bought a house in the IPS district because my kids wanted to go to Tech,” said La Meca Perkins, an audience member.
Several audience members have questioned why the district doesn’t consider closing other underutilized buildings in the district instead of high schools.
Dr. Ferebee reminded everyone that similar to the taskforce created to examine high school facilities, the district previously assembled a group to review other underutilized facilities. As a result, IPS has dramatically reduced the footprint of buildings around the district, including central administration. Once the sale of the Coca-Cola building is complete, the district would have sold around $17M of facilities not utilized or underutilized around the city. The revenue from property sales and lease payments have been reinvested to support teacher compensation increases – the first in five years for IPS teachers.
The next community meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11, at Zion Hope Baptist Church, 5950 E. 46th St.
For the complete list of community meetings, to share your thoughts, and to read the Taskforce report, go to myips.org/facilitiestaskforce.