UPDATE — The Indianapolis Public School board voted unanimously to pass the Rebuilding Stronger plan during Thursday’s meeting.
INDIANAPOLIS — On Thursday, board members are set to decide on the fate of the Rebuilding Stronger Plan for Indianapolis Public Schools.
The plan, which was initially released in September, includes a variety of sweeping changes, including reorganized schools, changing school zones and closures of some buildings.
Since its release, district leaders have held numerous meetings and sent out surveys asking for input from stakeholders on the proposed plan and its contents.
“We know that this is an incredibly comprehensive plan, that it involves a number of tradeoffs that are difficult and really hard for our communities, and so I think it is important that we acknowledge that, but that what I believe is possible, on the other side of this plan, is a better experience for our students,” said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.
Up until recently, district leaders have continued to sort through, evaluate and adjust the Rebuilding Stronger Plan based on community response. Superintendent Johnson said the finalized version, that will go before board members on Thursday, does include some changes.
One change includes who will operate the dual-language and high-ability programs at Harshman Middle School. Under the original plan, IPS would run its high-ability school inside the building alongside a dual-language middle school led by Global Preparatory Academy.
This week, Johnson announced IPS would directly run both programs without Global Prep.
“We do hope to continue to partner with Global Prep for their middle school expansion in the coming years,” Johnson added.
Last week, Windi Hornsby was advocating alongside other IPS parents for the outcome of IPS taking over dual language. Her kids attend Theodore Potter Spanish Immersion School 74, which currently serves K-6 but would become K-5 under the plan for the 2024-2025 school year. Hornsby said her kids would funnel through to Harshman.
As for her first reaction to the original Rebuilding Stronger Plan, Hornsby said she was mixed with concern but also excitement for the future.
“I think initial thoughts were we’re very concerned about K-8 and K-6 being cut, though there was some excitement as us being a K-6 school about dual-immersion being expanded, but definitely a lot of concern about a charter operator coming in to run that program,” she said.
Hornsby said she considered the change of IPS taking over both high-ability and dual-language at Harshman a win.
“We really pulled together and had a strong lobbying effort from our entire school community and on behalf of all of our families,” she said. “We really made sure that this was something our entire community wanted, and it was very clear that it was.”
“I still have a lot of concerns, frankly, for other school communities and the different things that they were lobbying for that they did not gain traction on,” she added.
Among the other changes, Johnson said IPS will continue on with its partnership with the Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation.
“They currently are partners with us at Thomas Gregg School on the near eastside, and so we anticipate partnering with them at the Washington Irving School 14 as well,” said Johnson.
Starting in January, Johnson said the district would also open up a call for new innovation partners.
Johnson also noted that IPS, under the final plan, would form a teacher advisory committee to help facilitate changes within the middle school experience.
“We also committed to the board, given feedback we’ve heard from some families around the middle school experience and what that will mean to bring together unique programs, that we will convene a teacher advisory group, who will be a part of the planning for what it means to bring those different programs together under one middle school to ensure that the voices of community, the practitioners in those programs, are heard,” said Johnson.
In total, under the finalized plan, Johnson said six schools would no longer offer student instruction. Program, George Buck School 94, Floro Torrence School 83, Raymond Brandes School 65, Francis Parker School 56, Paul Miller School 114
As for where the plan stands now, Hornsby said she’d like to see it pass, but room for more compromise and flexibility is needed as time goes on.
“I do think this plan does address a lot of the fiscal issues that they’re dealing with, and I know we don’t have a lot of options there,” Hornsby said, “and I understand that we’re facing declining enrollment and that we need to do things to boost that, but I think there has to be compromise from both sides.”
“I think parents and students are compromising,” she added. “We’re willing to concede to things, but also we need flexibility for what our students and our entire communities need, both Black, Brown, high-achieving, low-achieving, underperforming, all of that.”
Meanwhile, plans for two referendums to help pay for the Rebuilding Stronger Plan remain unchanged. District leaders are still proposing $810 million in referendums to help cover the costs from building renovations and improvements, to expanding student services and providing competitive compensation to teachers and support staff. Pending board approval, which is slated for December, voters will decide the outcome on the May ballot.