INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Community members are making a last-ditch effort to save their IPS schools, hoping the board will listen to them.
And with the vote now just weeks away, some are asking whether IPS really is keeping all options on the table.
The facilities task force recommended converting Arlington and Northwest to middle schools and closing Broad Ripple to better serve students and help fill the district’s bank account.
And now they’re also questioning why the downtown administration building isn’t on the chopping block if money is truly needed.
“Why are we not looking at that as an option for the administrative offices to move into one of the schools to fill up the space?” asked Dountonia Batts, a member of the IPS Community Coalition and parent of an IPS graduate.
Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee says some administrators will be filling up extra space in whichever schools remain.
“We are recommending, as part of this proposal, that several central office buildings be sold,” said Ferebee. “There are certain facilities that we’ve recommended for sale or lease. We haven’t started that process yet. We won’t have those conversations until the board considers the proposal.”
Batts, though, still doesn’t understand why the task force didn’t consider putting the most central office up for sale.
She references a 2013 operational analysis by IPS and the Indy Chamber recommending IPS immediately assess the market value of the downtown building for potential sale.
It was considered a potentially valuable asset then, and with a downtown that’s grown significantly, Batts believe it’s likely worth much more now.
But saving and making money weren’t the task force’s only goals. The task force believes larger school sizes will allow the district to provide more and better courses.
On the other hand, many parents and community members feel bigger school aren't the answer for the students currently in IPS. They're worried that some kids will get lost.
“I hope that some of the decisions they’re making, they’re taking heed of the community, the needs of the students that are directly impacted by their decisions and understanding some of the underlying issues that the impact of these decisions will have on students and the communities in which they live,” said Batts.
Arlington, she and others argued, is a much more essential part of the surrounding community than some other high schools.
The principal of nearby Cathedral High School agrees. He spoke in favor of retaining Arlington and the partnership they have with the private high school that he says has enriched both schools.
“Cathedral is a strong community because of our partnership with Arlington High School,” said Dave Worland, the school’s principal.
Because the school has so many connections to the surrounding area, supporters say it’s vital for Arlington to remain a high school.
Board members for the Walker Foundation, which has stated its intent to expand its partnership with the school and help turn it into a college prep high school if Arlington isn’t converted to a middle school, believe many students will struggle and even drop out if that happens.
“Most of those we see are raised in one-parent homes and many of them are raised without parents, some have been homeless,” said Richard Norris, one of the foundation’s board members. “Those kids are not going to graduate from a school they have to travel to, at least many of them won’t.”
Thursday, September 1 is the final opportunity to give in-person feedback to the IPS board.
The public discussion starts at 5:30 at Northwest High School, the last of the four schools recommended for closure on IPS’ community feedback tour.
Click here to sign up to speak.