IPS considers opening school inside shopping mall

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 28, 2015) -- Going to school inside a shopping mall could soon be the reality for kids in Indianapolis Public Schools.

The district is considering a partnership with Simon Youth Foundation to open the alternative school inside Circle Centre Mall. The school would be open to high schoolers who are in danger of dropping out.

"They feel comfortable in a mall. They feel safe in a mall," Simon Youth Foundation President and CEO Michael Durnil said.

The foundation already runs more than 20 schools inside malls across the country, including Edinburgh Premium Outlets. Durnil said the IPS model would host around 60 students at a time, who would be recommended by their principal and complete an application process.

"We have found that students come to us because they don’t feel comfortable in a regular high school," Durnil said.

Asked about problems with youth at Circle Centre Mall in recent years, including violence, Durnil said he didn't expect the school to solve that problem but that it could have an effect.

"What we know at the foundation (is) across the country, where we open an academy, anecdotally violence in that area usually drops," Durnil said.

As to whether kids could focus in the midst of the mall, Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee said he didn't forsee any issues. In fact, Ferebee pointed to opportunities for students to work with Simon employees and even complete internships inside the mall as a greater way to introduce them to life outside high school.

"Having those opportunities will keep them busy, so I don’t think we’re really worried about this as a means for students to hang out in the mall. It’s really a true educational experience that’s unique and we’re going to take full advantage of it," Ferebee said.

IPS board members are expected to vote on the proposal at their action meeting this Thursday. If approved, Simon planned to open the school this upcoming fall semester.

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