Frustrations linger at final IPS school closure community meeting

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Five meetings, but no less frustration for IPS parents.

In April, a taskforce recommended IPS close three high schools.

Thursday, after the final community meeting, some parents tell us they don’t know any more now than they did at the beginning.

Each meeting has had echoes of the same set of concerns from parents.

Their biggest questions center on why IPS feels they need to make this decision quickly and feeling the conversation seems to be one-sided.

“It really makes me question, really makes me think, should we even move?” asked Crispus Attucks parent Jana Montgomery. “Should we move out? Because it’s so unsettling at the moment.”

Other parents too, questioned what continuing to close and shift schools does for the perception of stability about the district.

Many other fears, concerns, questions tumble out at each table of parents, former teachers and community members.

“We came from a township school and we came down just for her to go to Crispus Attucks,” said Montgomery of her daughter. “That’s why we came.”

Jana Montgomery is one of many fighting for IPS not to close three schools as recommended.

“Is this the only solution you came up with?” Montgomery thought aloud. “Are there any other solutions? Does it have to be so quick? It just seems like it’s lightning fast.”

Montgomery and others were especially disappointed by the format of the meetings.

Attendees were separated into groups for 45 minutes to discuss their questions. Then each group’s moderators presented their concerns and questions.

But for the most part, people felt they didn’t actually get much of a response.

I don’t feel satisfied at all,” said Southridge High School parent Carrie Hawk. “I kind of felt that they cut them off very short. I don’t feel like they answered any questions.”

Hawk felt she received more insight from the former teachers at her table than she received from school officials.

“It was nice to hear some feedback from past teachers,” said Hawk. “To hear that meshing with other schools in the past was not very good.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee did address that concern tonight, saying they’ll come up with a comprehensive plan.

They’ll consider academics and safety, restructuring a district only a fifth the size it was fifty years ago.

“They say they have a plan,  but we haven’t really heard the details of the plan,” said Montgomery. “It’s very concerning to me because this is our future.”

On June 29, IPS will hold a meeting to present the administration’s recommendation of which schools to close. They will also include plans for reutilizing the buildings, so they’re not left vacant, plus academic plans.

Then, it’s back to the sounding board. In July and August, the school board will hold its regularly scheduled meetingAs at each high school recommended for closure.

Finally, on September 28, the board will vote on the three issues recommended by the administration.

“It’s difficult because it’s a tough decision,” said school board president Mary Ann Sullivan. “It’s also one that comes with a big upside because it means we are going to have to a much stronger high school program for kids.”

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