Parent-run school moves into building, expands enrollment

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A year after starting their own school, a group of parents and teachers are moving into their own building and expanding enrollment thanks to state funding.

The school known as Project Libertas is now a state accredited school that will receive money through Indiana school choice vouchers this fall.

On Tuesday, a group of about 40 parents, students, teachers and community volunteers helped load up the school’s supplies and move them into a dedicated school building on the campus of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis.

“This is the most amazing community thing to watch I’ve seen in a while,” said Owen Harrington, who is both a Project Libertas teacher and a parent.

In just a couple hours, the team of volunteers moved into two buildings, which include four classrooms, an office and a small lunchroom.

The campus is a long way from where the school started. Last summer, parents and teachers at the Project School were left with few options after the city revoked the charter of the school due to poor financial management and failing test scores. That’s when three teachers and a handful of parents decided to start over from scratch.

Fox59 News visited the school this spring. The three paid staff members were renting space in a community center and operating without state funding, meaning parents volunteered and paid what they could and teachers sacrificed a steady income.

“Things like paychecks are a little iffy,” Harrington said during an interview in May.

Students also learned a lesson in adapting.

“We were in a lobby of somewhere once,” said Ian Gulyas, a 7th-grader at the school. “But I’m glad we’re here now. It’s an actual school building, which is always nice.”

The move is possible because Project Libertas earned state accreditation, which allows it to collect school choice vouchers. The increased funding means the school can finally afford to pay teachers and supply classrooms.

“Whereas last year was spent trying to keep things afloat, this year, we actually get to just do what we do as teachers and work on moving forward now,” Harrington said. “It’s awfully nice.”

The school has already doubled its paid staff and hopes to double enrollment to 70 students.

“We work with each family to create a tuition structure that works for them,” said school director Megan Hughes.

Of course, with state accreditation comes state accountability, including ISTEP testing. Despite the added challenge, Harrington says it’s a chance to show the state that the project-based learning model can succeed.

Parents are also optimistic.

“I think that we’re up for the challenge,” said Lisa Hay. “We have incredible teachers, dedicated teachers, and parents that are willing to step in where needed.”

“This is our year to show who we are,” said Hughes. “Being able to put a sign out, put our stake in the ground saying, ‘We’re here’, feels really good.”

Project Libertas already has a waiting list for its middle school students this fall. The school currently has about a dozen slots open for students in grades K-5.

For more information on the school go to projectlibertas.org

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