Late Wednesday morning, June 28, the Indianapolis Public Schools district superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee along with operations officer David Rosenberg posted a public thirty-six-page document stating a recommendation of closure for three of the district’s high schools.
The release listed a plan to close Arlington, Northwest, and Broad Ripple high schools by the 2018-2019 school year.
Vice President Michael O'Connor said the recommendations were suggested based on the capacity of the campus, as well as the location in regard to Center Township for transportation reasons.
Collectively, all of the IPS high school buildings can maintain a student body population of 15,000. However only 37 percent of that space is current being utilized by the enrolled high student population, which is closer to 5,000.
During Ferebee and his team’s presentation, they explained that the currently enrolled high schoolers could fit into just two and one-tenth of the high school buildings currently running.
While Arlington and Northwest have been chosen to reopen as middle schools, the recommendation for the Broad Ripple high school building is to sell it for around $6-8 million. The proposal also calls for John Marshall middle school to be sold early in the 2017-2018 school year. The closing of the three high school buildings together would accumulate almost four million annually for the district.
Along with potential sales of Broad Ripple and John Marshall, the district is also making plans to sell the Forest Manor Development Center and the Facilities Maintenance Department located on 16th and Yandes Streets near the Monon Trail. The staff and faculty at each of the buildings being sold will relocate to an assigned school building when class is not in session.
The day after the proposal was released, the IPS school board held an action session meeting in the administrative building downtown discussing the specifics of the recommendations.
The meeting allowed different members of the public to ask questions and express concerns. Members of the crowd wore colors of closing schools filled to the brim with rowdy teachers and students affiliated with different schools in the district.
“Its painful, I can feel everyone’s pain and I have to balance that with the reality of the situation. The reality is that we have to many high schools and we need to close some,” said IPS school board commissioner Kelly Bentley.
Broad Ripple Village Association member and past president Kerry Springer released in a statement on Wednesday the he believes that the high school building ought to continue to be used for educational purposes. Springer also expressed his feelings in the public comments hearings Thursday night.
As part of the new initiative, the four remaining high schools in the IPS district will begin a choice system of education. Students will decide which school to attend based upon the career programs in place for their desired vocation, instead of their residential location.
Ferebee and the board promised members in attendance at the meeting that this system will touch base specifically with students individually as the transition continues to move forward.
“[We] must build upon our progress as we address our gaps in performance with more deliberate and personalized learning,” said Ferebee in a written statement.
Individuals continue to question the effectiveness of this decision and the school board plans to hold meetings at each school before the official vote is taken in September. The final results of the vote will determine the precise actions for the 2018-2019 school year.
School officials continue to promise to accommodate transitioning teachers and students through a step-by-step process. Decisions regarding specific transitions will be determined as the process continues.
“We haven’t closed anything, so transportation will be weaved in as we get through this,” said O’Connor. “We are going to have to build a transportation system around getting kids from a community to a school of choice.”
The next IPS board meeting open to the public continuing to discuss these transitions will be held in the district building at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18.