IPS board approves plan to close 3 high schools, 1 middle school

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis Public Schools will close three high schools and one middle school.

The IPS school board voted Monday night to approve a plan that seeks to fix the district’s low enrollment and financial problems.

Under the approved plan, Arlington and Northwest high schools will be converted into middle schools and Broad Ripple High School will be sold. John Marshall Middle School and two administrative buildings will also be sold.

"I expected that," said LeRoy Lewis, a Broad Ripple alum. "I saw  the writing on the wall when Broad Ripple was up for closure. It’s the most valuable property that IPS has in its inventory, so I expected it to be one of the closed and the one to be sold."

Howe and Manual high schools, currently operated by state turnaround partners, will not be operated as high schools upon their return to Indianapolis Public Schools.

Arsenal Technical High School, Crispus Attucks High School, George Washington High School and Shortridge High School will be retained under the plan.

The changes are estimated to save IPS $7 million a year and allow the district to offer career-themed academies at the remaining high schools.

Many IPS families have gone through months of heated meetings about the proposal.

One group of parents gathered outside the IPS Education Center Monday morning to express their support for the plan. They presented Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and school board president Mary Ann Sullivan with a stack of what the parents said were hundreds of emails in support of the changes to the high schools.

"If nothing changes, nothing changes," said Latoya Tahirou, an IPS parent involved with Stand for Children Indiana. "This plan is a great change and it probably has pros and cons. But for me, I’m so excited because it's allowing kids to get on a positive track."

She said the addition of early college opportunities and career-themed academies would benefit students across the city.

"With the college and career readiness it would allow them to start their future," she said. "Not only just to graduate but put them on a track for success for their whole life."

But, parents and IPS alumni who oppose the school closures took a stand too. They protested prior to the special school board meeting.

They argued that the process should be slowed down to look at more options for retaining the schools, possibly with smaller class sizes.

Among their concerns is what will happen when students who can easily walk or bike to community schools can only rely on buses for transportation.

"School closings should be the last choice not the first choice," said Dountonia Batts, IPS Community Coalition spokesperson. "We would really like for them to reevaluate the proposals and answer some of the questions the community has raised."

Officials have long maintained there were no easy choices and said they understand parents’ frustration over the situation.

Some Broad Ripple supporters hoped that even if the commissioners did decide to close the school, that it could still be used as some school and multi-purpose community center.

Some commissioners shot down that idea during the meeting, with Kelly Bentley stating if she though there was a need for a school in Broad Ripple, she wouldn't be voting to close her alma mater. Consequently, she said she would not support any effort to buy or lease the building to be used for a school.

That was disheartening to people like Lewis.

"What I saw is that IPS decided that they could not keep the facility in their property inventory," said Lewis. "That doesn’t mean another school system or another school can’t. If it looks like elementary through middle school, that’s fantastic as well, but some type of education component is what we’re looking for."

Watch video of the IPS meeting below: