Some parents upset over IPS recommendation for Northwest High School, protest planned

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Parents, students and activists plan to make their voices heard at Thursday night’s Indianapolis Public Schools board meeting. A protest is planned just one day after the IPS administration recommended three high schools be shut down to deal with a big drop in enrollment.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee plans to formally recommend Broad Ripple High School be sold while Arlington and Northwest High Schools would be turned into middle schools.

Some parents who live near Northwest say they are upset about the administration’s plans.

“If you don’t have a high school on northwest side where will I send [my daughter]?” said Roosevelt Buck, a longtime resident. “She’s going to be bused to the other side of town?”

Buck said he picked where to live in large part because of its proximity to Northwest High School.  Now, he’s unsure what schools will be available for his child once she makes it to the high school level.

“I was kind of shocked about it,” he said.

The IPS administration unveiled its plans for the three high schools Wednesday. They would like to see Northwest turned into a 600-seat middle school for seventh and eighth graders.  The district’s report states the growing population on the west side of the city, where K-8 facilities are at capacity, means there is a strong need for a middle school. District leaders cite the distance from Northwest to the center of the district as an obstacle to attracting and retaining students due to competition from township and charter schools.

But, the location of Northwest High School is a plus for parents like Ana Patricia Velazquez, who relies on the public bus to get around. In Spanish, Velazquez said she prefers having her daughter attend school in their neighborhood instead of having to travel a farther distance each day. She also said it would be tough for her to attend meetings or events at her child’s school if it was located in another part of town.

According to data released by IPS, 76 percent of residents in the neighborhood around Northwest High School are minorities. Some parents say having a high school in the area helps create a sense of community.

Velazquez said she likes getting to know the teachers, parents and other children at her daughter’s school.

Groups like “Save Northwest – Indianapolis” are gearing up for Thursday night’s school board meeting by telling supporters to show up wearing green and speak directly to the board during public comment.  Members of the group had protest signs ready to go in the early afternoon hours.

Activists like Star Adit say shutting down high schools in three neighborhoods will have long term effects.

“It destroys neighborhoods,” Adita said. “That’s chaotic. At the end of the day, it doesn’t bring the community together.  It’s actually divisive.”

IPS administrators say shutting down three high schools is necessary to “right size” the district. Ferebee said the district has lost around 20,000 high school students in the last 53 years – leaving all the IPS high schools under capacity.

District administrators want to restructure high schools to an all choice model where students would select which high school to attend based on their interests instead of their home address.

The IPS meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at 120 E. Walnut Street.