School Closings

Northwest High School serves one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Indianapolis. Here’s why it will probably become a middle school.

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Northwest High School would convert to a middle school under a plan from the Indianapolis Public Schools administration.

Located on the edge of Indianapolis Public Schools, Northwest High School serves one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. This could be the campus’ last year as a high school, but it would continue to educate neighborhood children under a proposal from the administration.

The school is one of two campuses Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has recommended converting to a middle school as part of a high school reconfiguration plan. It also calls for closing a high school and a middle school. The newcomer program, which serves students who are just beginning to learn English, would also move to the Northwest building.

That would be a good fit for some families in the Lafayette Square area, which is a hub for refugees and immigrants from around the world. In the school’s ZIP code area, 35 percent of residents speak a language other than English at home, according to census data. That diversity is present in Northwest, and last year, nearly a quarter of the school’s students were English language learners.

The board will meet to discuss the proposal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northwest, which will begin with 90 minutes for public comment. The deadline to sign up online to speak is noon Thursday. It is the fourth and final meeting at a high school scheduled for closure.

Critics of the administration’s plan for closing high schools encouraged parents to oppose the move at a meeting at Northwest last week. As district leaders consider the proposal, there are reasons to close the school — and to keep it open.

Here are some reasons to keep Northwest open:

  • The school has a climbing graduation rate. Over the last two years, it has risen from 62 percent to 75 percent, higher than a few of the district’s other high schools.
  • Northwest is on the edge of the district, and if it closes, students who face long bus rides to other IPS high schools may choose to go to township or charter schools instead.
  • It serves a community with an unusually high poverty rate — 32 percent — and it is likely that many families don’t have cars, making it difficult for them to get involved at a high school across town.

Here are some reasons Northwest is facing closure:

  • Northwest has struggled academically. Although it is not overseen by the state, after persistent low grades it is part of the state-funded transformation zone, which aims to improve struggling schools with an influx of coaching and other resources.
  • The likeliest reason the administration recommended closing the high school is its location. Because the administration plan is an all magnet model, where students choose schools based on focus area rather than neighborhood, the district chose to keep all four high schools near the city center. Northwest would be a long commute for students from other areas of the district.

Transition plan

Students at one Memphis elementary school may relocate during construction

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Students demonstrate ancient Chinese martial arts during a showcase for parents at the end of Shelby County Schools' 2017 summer learning academy at Alcy Elementary School.

Students at Alcy Elementary School in South Memphis likely won’t be staying put during construction of their new school.

It’s also possible that the new building won’t be ready until January of 2020 instead of the fall of 2019 as originally planned.

School board members will vote in the coming months on whether to temporarily relocate Alcy students to Magnolia Elementary. The original plan was to stay in the current building until a replacement is built on another part of Alcy’s campus.

“Our construction staff said there wasn’t enough land to build the new school and operate the old school with parking lot and dropoffs and do it all safely,” explained Billy Orgel, who chairs the board’s facilities committee for Shelby County Schools.

Orgel’s panel reviewed the construction schedule on Monday with facility staff members for the district.

The new $19 million building will merge students from Alcy, Magnolia, and Charjean elementary schools. Eventually, the old Alcy building will be demolished, while the other two school buildings will be leveled or sold. It’s all part of Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s plan to close, build, and consolidate seven schools into three new ones, similar to an earlier project at Westhaven Elementary.

Board members mulled the possibility of relocating Alcy students in January to stay on construction schedule but opted to recommend a move at the end of the school year — a decision that would push construction back by about six months.

“It’s more orderly for everyone to have the summer to prepare rather than the holidays,” Orgel said.

Students at Goodlett Elementary, another school in Hopson’s consolidation plan, will stay in their current building while a new one is built nearby. The new school will bring in students from Knight Road Elementary, along with some from Sheffield and Getwell elementary schools. Knight Road is be demolished later.

After the Alcy and Goodlett projects, the next construction phase calls for a new K-12 Woodstock school that would merge with Lucy and Northaven elementary schools.

School Closings

Hired: Indianapolis Public Schools chooses principals to help ‘reinvent’ high schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indianapolis Public Schools went on a hiring spree Thursday, selecting principals for the four high schools that will remain open next fall and a new chief of staff.

Four current IPS leaders will take the helm at its high schools next year — three of whom will remain at schools they now lead. The district interviewed several external candidates and increased the salary cap for principals to $150,000 per year as part of a school reconfiguration that included closing three high schools. The principals chosen are:

  • Shane O’Day will remain as principal of Shortridge High School,
  • Lauren Franklin will remain as principal of Crispus Attucks High School,
  • Stan Law, who is currently principal at Arlington High School, will take over at George Washington High School, and
  • Lloyd Bryant, who took over as interim principal at Arsenal Technical High School when Julie Bakehorn was abruptly removed, will become the permanent principal at the school.

“They have the ability to lead the academy model and do it really well,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “I’m excited about their leadership, and I look forward to them sharing their vision with students and families.”

The board also approved hiring Ahmed Young as chief of staff. A former teacher and lawyer by training, Young previously oversaw charter schools for Mayor Joe Hogsett.

As IPS chief of staff, Young will work on both academic and operational oversight. Ferebee said that Young will take on some of the responsibilities of Wanda Legrand and David Rosenberg, two top administrators who recently left the district. But the district may hire an additional staffer as well.

“He’s a very talented guy, and he’s shown that in his work in the mayor’s office,” Ferebee said. “We are really fortunate to have him on the team.”

Young will be paid $150,000 per year. Three of the principals — Law, O’Day and Franklin — will be paid $125,000 per year, at least $20,000 more than each currently makes. Principal Bryant, who will lead the largest school, will be paid $140,000 per year, up from his current salary of $110,000 per year.

The four principals will also be paid additional stipends this year to plan for the academies and hire teachers in the coming months.

The principals will lead their schools through a significant transition as the district switches to an all magnet high school model in 2018-2019, branded as “reinventing” high schools. Each school will have academies with focus areas such as the performing arts, health sciences and information technology. Instead of choosing a high school by location, students will be expected to select an academy based on their interests.

Last week, the board voted to close three high schools after months of contentious meetings over the proposal. Arlington, Northwest and Broad Ripple high schools will close at the end of this year. The move follows decades of shrinking enrollment as the district loses students to suburban, charter and private schools.