INDIANAPOLIS — IPS has unveiled its latest version of the Rebuilding Stronger plan. The plan includes sweeping changes like reorganized schools, school zones changed, other buildings closing and more.
The hope is this plan will be able to realign resources making IPS schools better for all students.
”The reality is we can’t get to that experience without changing some of the current structures, systems that we have currently,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “We have to do something different, particularly as it relates to resource alignment.”
Seven school buildings in total would close permanantly as part of the plan.
Francis Bellamy Pre-K, George Buck School 94, Floro Torrence School 83 and Raymond Brandes School 65 would all close at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Three other schools would shutdown but merge with others. Francis Parker School 56 would merge it’s Montessori program with James Russell Lowell School 51 Facility, CFI 2 – Benjamin Harrison facility would merge with Washington Irving School 14 building and Paul Miller School 114 would merge with Frederick Douglass School 19.
“Those are not lightly made recommendations,” Johnson said. “I very much understand and appreciate the disruptions that causes for families.”
Johnson said conversations would be had with the community on what to do with those then-empty school buildings.
”We do not want those buildings to no longer be an asset to neighborhoods,” she said. “But we believe there are other purposes perhaps they could serve and still bring value.”
328 staff members would be impacted by the closing schools. IPS is offering each retention bonuses between $10,000 to $20,000 if they stay with the district.
”It is our desire and goal to retain staff with us, particularly as we look toward the future,” Johnson said. “And again, we know to pull off this plan we need to have staff with us for implementation.”
All of those staff members facing changes will be offered jobs in the district. A survey went out Wednesday morning to get preferences from each employee about where they would be interested in working.
Other buildings would get upgrades or be brought back into the fold. Each middle school would get renovations based on needs, some other schools would get completely rebuilt. The plan also includes turning the old Broad Ripple High School building into a middle school.
”We want our environments to demonstrate that our kids are valued and invested in,” Johnson said.
One of the biggest changes is IPS switching most schools to a K-5 and 6-8 format, a majority now are K-6 or K-8.
IPS parent Windi Hornsby supports the K-8 format and does not want to see it go.
”I think there is just a lot of worry about change,” Hornsby said. “Worry about how this is going to affect all the kids, especially so soon after COVID.”
The total cost of the plan is up in the air. Johnson said IPS has estimations for how much it would cost and hope to have a more finite price for the IPS Board of Commissioners in a few months.
Hornsby is worried about spending money on renovations and changes and if funds would be better used elsewhere.
”It’s concerning to us to see that a lot of money is going to be spent on renovations to schools to make this plan work, yet we cant even keep all of our teachers and all of our programs,” Hornsby said.
Johnson said she understand the sacrifices families will have to make but she sees this plan as being for the best.
”If we want to be able to provide something better than what we have today, particularly for our kids right now who don’t get many of the options we want to be available to them, we have to make some hard decision to align our resources in a different way,” Johnson said.
The IPS Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the plan during the November board meeting.
Between now and then, there are a dozen meetings for public comment. Johnson said this is not a final draft of the plan and IPS is looking forward to getting parent feedback.
You can find the entire Rebuilding Better plan on the IPS website.