IPS board meets, discusses school closures

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The IPS school board met for the first time since district leaders released their plan to close schools. That proposal includes selling the Broad Ripple High School building and converting Arlington and Northwest into middle schools.

It is a move that could save the district $7 million a year, but some community members aren’t sold on it. Emotions are high among some parents, teachers and community members.

Some showed up before the board meeting Thursday to protest, saying they feel like the proposal was rushed and public meetings were unproductive.

“You have to have a real conversation and not go, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’” said parent, Star Adita. Her thoughts were echoed by several people during public comment.

“Our concerns appear to fall on deaf ears,” said another parent.

Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee said that’s not the case: “We’ve done everything we think we can do as it relates to engaging the community, but I think you always will get that outcry that it wasn’t enough.”

He said something needs to be done as declining enrollment has left the district with more classroom space than students. Right now there’s about a 37 percent utilization rate.

“We can’t continue to sustain a high school experience with buildings two-thirds empty,” said Ferebee.

Another concern brought up during public comment was the fear of new charter schools coming to Indianapolis, potentially pulling additional students from the district’s already declining enrollment.

Many also worry about the transition process for students switching schools.

One mother said she knows something needs to be done, but she doesn’t think the current proposal is the right move.

“The request by the community is not that nothing be done, but rather that a new task force be made that reflects the community,” said a parent during public comment.

A large group of people attended Thursday’s meeting at Northwest Community High School. Many of them said they are disappointed their high school could close. They touted recent successes and say they worked hard to achieve them. They say closing the high school would pause this progress.

“Our graduation rate has gone up, our test scores have gone up, everything they have set out for us, we’ve met that and even more,” said Penelope Hash, a teacher at Northwest Community High School.

The superintendent defends the decision, saying it makes sense to use buildings more centrally located in the city as they move to a school of choice model.

IPS will hold additional community meetings throughout July and August including meetings at high schools proposed to close.

The board will vote on this proposal in September.

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