School Closings

Closing Indianapolis high schools? Parents and alumni plead ‘slow down’

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Many Indianapolis Public Schools parents and alumni were frustrated with the districts proposal to close three high schools.

An effort to ease tensions fell flat at Indianapolis Public Schools’ first public meeting about its plan to close three high schools.

“I think that we can all agree that under our new leadership team, with Dr. (Lewis) Ferebee at the helm, the district has actually made great strides both academically, operationally and financially,” said Denise Herd, the communications consultant brought in to moderate.

“Wouldn’t you all agree?” she said.

“No!” the crowded audience responded in near unison.

That rebuke set the tone for the meeting Wednesday night, where a crowd of about 150 people packed into a room at the Glendale Library to discuss a proposal to close three high schools in the district. IPS educators, parents, alumni and students spoke about frustration with the school closing process, the current administration and charter schools that draw students from the district.

The conversation was highly structured, with attendees divided into several groups to discuss the proposal. District staff, including Ferebee, and school board members moved among the groups, answering questions and listening in on conversations. But the crowd was so lively in its discussion, it was a struggle to hear people over the din of the packed room.

When group leaders shared their thoughts with the full audience after nearly an hour of conversation, the tone was frustrated. Most of the groups agreed that the process was moving too fast and didn’t include enough community input.

“School closings are huge in our community, and so what we need to do is make sure that we have the community involved,” said Carrie Harris of the Crispus Attucks High School Alumni Association. “Let’s not rush this thing.”

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Carrie Harris, right, was one of several Indianapolis Public Schools alumni who criticized the district proposal to close three high schools.

The meeting was the first of four the district plans on holding before the administration recommends in June which schools to close. The board is expected to vote on the proposal in September, with schools likely closing in 2018-2019. If the board goes forward with the plan to close three schools, the district would educate just over 5,000 students in the four remaining high schools — a shift that officials project would save the district more than $4 million per year.

Curtis Baker, a Broad Ripple High School graduate and parent, said that he understands the district needs to close schools because of low enrollment, but he wants to know how the money it saves would be used to improve education for students in the high schools that remain open.

“I think we’re kind of rushing this,” he said. “Maybe we’re bleeding money out, and I’m sure we are. But this is affecting a lot of people.”

Many of the audience members said they had deep loyalty to the IPS high schools they and their family attended. Cynnie Halsmer graduated from Broad Ripple High School, along with her mother and two sons. Her two daughters are currently enrolled at the school.

“Slow down,” she said. “Don’t do this to people.”

The district will hold three more community meeting before the administration recommends which high schools to close.

6-8 p.m. May 1
Ivy Tech Culinary Center
2820 N. Meridian Street

6-8 p.m. May 11
Zion Hope Baptist Church
5950 E 46th Street

6-8 p.m. May 15
Haughville Library
2121 W. Michigan St.

School Closings

Thousands of Indianapolis high schoolers are applying for school as district goes all magnet

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
High school students across Indianapolis Public Schools are reapplying for school.

Thousands of Indianapolis high schoolers are making a choice this fall that could disrupt friendships, reconfigure sports teams and shape futures: Where to go to high school.

In recent weeks, freshman, sophomores and juniors across Indianapolis Public Schools have begun choosing where they hope to go to school next year as the district closes nearly half of its high schools and pushes teens to choose their campus based on academic focus rather than neighborhood.

The district will close three high schools next fall and open magnet academies with academic and career focuses, such as health science and information technology, at the remaining four campuses.

“We want to ensure that they are choosing a high school because they want to be a part of those academies,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “That will be really important because students will be expected to dive into those academies.”

The administration has pitched the all-choice approach as a way of getting students engaged and interested in high school. But for students, the decision of where to go to school often hinges on more personal factors.

When Brandon Henderson’s family moved to Wayne Township, he was supposed to go to Ben Davis High School, which has many career and technical programs. But Henderson, a sophomore who hopes to become an engineer, said he chose to stay at George Washington High School to be with his girlfriend, Carmella Johnson.

If they have to move to another campus, so be it, said Johnson. “It’s just a school,” she added.

Johnson was not alone in her attitude. In interviews the day after the IPS board voted to create academies, some students raised concerns about the plans while others were supportive, but none seemed overly anxious about the changes.

“It don’t matter, you know. I got a spot here for next year,” said Wade Waites, a junior at George Washington. “Whatever extra activities that they might have, that I can learn something and pick up an extra career, I’m down for it, man. I’m down for it.”

The administration is requiring students in schools that will remain open, as well as students at campuses that will close, to select their top school choices. Nearly all students in magnet programs have completed the process so far and “well above” half of students in neighborhood high schools have as well, said Patrick Herrel, who oversees IPS enrollment.

Current students in magnets can choose to stay in their programs at Crispus Attucks High School, Arsenal Technical High School, and Shortridge High School. Students can also remain in the visual and performing arts and humanities programs, which are moving from Broad Ripple High School to Shortridge.

But students in traditional neighborhood high schools will be required to choose new programs. That includes hundreds of teens enrolled in George Washington and the neighborhood program at Arsenal Tech, as well as students who will be displaced when Northwest and Arlington high schools close. The exception is rising seniors at schools that will remain open, who can choose to stay at their current campuses.

The district will send students new assignments by Nov. 13, said Herrel. That will give students who are not happy with their assignments time to reapply to high schools through Enroll Indy.

“The goal is that everyone gets their first choice, and we are very hopeful that we will be able to achieve that,” Herrel said.

But if there are not enough spots in a program for all the interested students, the district will make assignments by lottery. Students at schools that are closing will get priority. But students won’t have priority to stay at their neighborhood campus, so a sophomore at George Washington, for example, could potentially be forced to move.

Even following the high school closures, IPS will have thousands of extra high school seats. But if any programs prove unexpectedly popular, it’s possible that current students could be displaced.

That was concerning to Jessica Smith, a senior at George Washington, who said that she’s unsure about the career academy plan because when students start high school, many of them don’t know what they want to do after they graduate.

Students who live in the area should be able to stay at the school, she said. “Some kids walk to school, and they don’t like taking the bus.”

The administration considered giving current students priority in the assignment lottery, said Ferebee, but it wasn’t feasible.

“If you give everybody priority,” said Ferebee. “Priority isn’t priority.”

Longer list

Dozens more Detroit schools added to state’s partnership list for low test scores — but forced closure is not a threat for now

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder

More than two dozen struggling Detroit schools will likely be added to the state’s “partnership” program after posting years of rock-bottom test scores.

That will bring to 50 the number of Detroit schools in the program, which requires schools to meet certain improvement targets or face consequences.

Those consequences could include closure or a staff shake-up but, for now at least, decisions about the schools’ fates will rest with local school boards. State officials say they currently have no plans to force schools to close.

That’s a big change from earlier this year when 38 schools across Michigan were told they were in danger of being shuttered after landing in the bottom 5 percent of state rankings for three years in a row.

Plans to close those schools were abandoned in the face of intense political opposition. Instead, the 37 schools that remained open (the one charter school on the list was closed by its authorizer) entered into “partnership agreements” with the state that require them to improve. (Read Detroit’s here).

On Monday, the state released a list of schools to be added to the partnership program. The state will now enter into negotiations with seven districts that don’t already have agreements. Among them are two Detroit charter schools — the David Ellis Academy and the Henry Ford Academy: School of Creative Studies Elementary.

Detroit’s main district, which already had 24 schools in the program, had another 24 schools added to the list. In addition, the district was invited to include nine schools that state says are trending in the wrong direction. With those nine schools, almost half of the 106 schools in the main district could be in the program.

“These will be positive, yet pressing, conversations with the leaders of these districts to get their struggling schools back on track,” state Superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement. “We want to provide as many local and state-level partners as possible to help students in these schools be successful.”

The state’s press release has more details and the full list of Michigan schools that have been added to the program — as well as schools that have been removed from watch lists after showing improvement.

Here’s the list of Detroit schools that are now in the program:

Newly added:

David Ellis Academy (charter)

Henry Ford Academy: School of Creative Studies-Elementary (charter)

Blackwell Institute

Brewer Elementary-Middle School

Carstens Elementary-Middle School

Central High School

Cody Academy of Public Leadership

Detroit International Academy for Young Women

Dixon Elementary

Dossin Elementary-Middle School

Earhart Elementary-Middle School

East English Village Prep Academy

Duke Ellington at Beckham

Emerson Elementary-Middle Schools

Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School

King High School

John R. King Academy and Performing Arts Academy

Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School

Mann Elementary

Marshall Elementary

Neinas Dual Language Learning Academy

Nobel Elementary-Middle School

Palmer Park Prep Academy

Pulaski Elementary-Middle School

Schulze Elementary-Middle School

Wayne Elementary

 

Schools that have the option to join the program:  

Academy of the Americas (Optional)

Bagley Elementary (Optional)

Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts (Optional)

Carver Elementary-Middle School (Optional)

Edison Elementary (Optional)

Ludington Magnet Middle School (Optional)

Medicine and Community Health Academy at Cody (Optional)

Nichols Elementary-Middle School (Optional)

Spain Elementary-Middle School (Optional)

 

Already in the program:

Ann Arbor Trail Magnet School

Bow Elementary-Middle School

Clark, J.E. Preparatory Academy

Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School @ Northwestern

Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody

Durfee Elementary-Middle School

Fisher Magnet Upper Academy

Gompers Elementary-Middle School

Henderson Academy

Marquette Elementary-Middle School

Mason Elementary School

Osborn Academy of Mathematics

Osborn College Preparatory Academy

Osborn Evergreen Academy of Design and Alternative Energy

Sampson Academy

Thirkell Elementary School

Burns Elementary-Middle School

Denby High School

Ford High School

Law Elementary School

Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary-Middle School

Mumford High School

Pershing High School

Southeastern High School