IPS parents concerned about high school closures impacting student athletes

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) leaders prepare to close three high schools, some parents say they are concerned about the future of student athletes.

IPS has announced plans to expand sports options for students as the district moves to an all-choice high school model. The IPS athletic director says students will have a chance to participate in rugby, lacrosse, diving or boxing.

However, there are families who worry fewer schools will mean fewer spots for their kids to play popular sports like basketball and football.

Christina Smith is an IPS parent and is also part of the group IPS Community Coalition.

"Being able to play a sport can make the difference between graduating from high school and not graduating from high school." Smith said. "A lot of kids keep going because they want to play that sport or want to do that extracurricular activity."

FOX59 took the worries expressed by some parents to IPS athletic director Jamal Smith.

"For most sports, with the exception of basketball, I don’t think spots on a team will be an issue," Jamal Smith said. "Now, the amount of time you get to play will be contingent on the amount of effort, talent and skill you bring to the table."

Parent Christina Smith said she feels like significantly limiting a students' play time from one year to the next could have negative consequences.

"It can be really disheartening for a kid to only be in a game for one inning, half of inning, or part of quarter," Christina Smith said.

But, the IPS athletic director says the adjustments will make each team more competitive.

"You’re only guaranteed what you’re willing to work for,' Jamal Smith said. "So, this consolidation does not change that."

He also points to the district's ability to expand sports offerings and provide more resources to the teams that will still be around.

"We’re looking to have ample equipment for all the kids that come out and play, ample opportunities, more chances to get out and expose their talents," Jamal Smith said.

District leaders say under 20 percent of IPS students participate in sports. Their goal is to increase that number with more options.

Jamal Smith said he wants to create an atmosphere where kids want to be at IPS.

The school district will also start requiring all kids involved in sports to do community service.