More than a hundred people gathered at Arlington High School Tuesday night for a meeting about a plan to close the school and convert it to a middle school.
Dozens walked down the aisles to stand at the microphones at the front of the mostly empty auditorium and make their case to the Indianapolis Public Schools Board. Many pled for the board not to close the school, highlighting the community and alumni support at the school, the quality of the campus and rising graduation rates — which have gone from 41 percent to 80 percent in two years. But a handful of people also spoke in support of the district plan.
The school on the northeast side of the district would close at the end of the year and the campus would be converted to a middle school under a high school reconfiguration plan proposed by the administration. The plan also calls for converting Northwest High School to a middle school, and closing Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall Middle School. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan in September.
The meeting is the third public forum the board has held since announcing the plan. The meeting at Broad Ripple High School drew a large crowd, while the one at John Marshall Middle School attracted just a handful of people.
The board will have the last meeting at a high school scheduled for closure at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northwest. The deadline to sign up to speak is noon Thursday.
Here are some comments — edited for brevity and clarity — from parents and alumni at the meeting.
Timothy Bass, alumnus
“I stand here on behalf of all the students who attend Arlington who feel they have no voice. In the last two years, Arlington has endured more challenges than any other IPS high school in the district without much success, without much support from this administration.
“Three years ago, you gave principal Stan Law and his staff 45 days to get this school prepared for the 2015-2016 school year. When the school opened it was under-staffed, our athletic teams had no uniforms. But somehow as a community we all came together.
“These decisions that you are making unfortunately affect many poor whites, Latinos and our black and white students who come from poor communities.
“Tonight you will hear about the many partnerships we have built. We have some of the best alumni in the state of Indiana.
“I am asking you to reconsider and leave Arlington open as a high school.”
Dawn Perez, parent
“I have two students in IPS. The closure of these schools is going to be a disaster for the surrounding communities. My daughter is in 8th grade. Where is she going to go to school next year if Northwest closes?
“I took 34 minutes to drive, and if she has to be bused somewhere else — I mean, I drive, but I know other parents don’t drive. How is that going to affect their way of life? It’s going to affect all the students’ way of life.
“It’s going to be a disaster, and I don’t see $4 million saving any of the children’s lives.”
Latoya Tahirou, parent
“I am here tonight to ask you to support the new plan to restructure IPS high schools. I believe the college and career academies plan proposed by IPS is the right direction for this school system.
“Two of my children are currently enrolled at (Phalen Leadership Academy at School 103). One is in pre-k and one is in kindergarten, and it is my hope that by the time they are old enough to go to high school, that IPS will have the best schools in the state of Indiana. But the honest truth is that our high schools are failing our kids. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. That’s why I am supporting this new plan as a parent of IPS kids.
“I know a lot of people have really strong feelings about their high school closing, but what we have to keep in mind is what is best for our children.”
Sharon Baker, alumna
“Students and staff come and go but one thing remains the same, this is a place where students can learn and feel safe away from their family stress. There have been tumultuous times in this school, but even now there is learning still taking place and success happening.
“This school has produced teachers, lawyers, actors, military. The list is endless. This is not just a school that has fallen on hard times or one that people have lost faith in. This is a place that has produced greatness. It has produced many people who have become successful.
“I myself am a school teacher, and I have been at the same school for 34 years. I learned that kind of loyalty from the Arlington teachers.
“Arlington is still standing, so don’t give up on the students and staff.”