School closings

Broad Ripple High School will probably close next year. Here’s what you should know.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students from Broad Ripple attended a meeting in April about high school closing plans.

Broad Ripple High School could graduate its last class of seniors this spring — more than a century after it began educating students.

The second oldest high school in Indianapolis Public Schools, Broad Ripple is one of three IPS high schools slated to close at the end of the year under a plan released by Superintendent Lewis Ferebee last month. The IPS board is expected to vote on the proposal in September.

The board will have a meeting 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Broad Ripple, which will begin with 90 minutes for public comment on the high school plan. The deadline to sign up online to speak is noon Tuesday.

There are some strong reasons to keep Broad Ripple open, but there also are practical factors that likely influenced the administration’s recommendation to close the school.

Here are some reasons to keep Broad Ripple open:

  • Broad Ripple has deeply loyal alumni, parents and students who have strongly advocated for the school in recent months. (The alumni include IPS board member Kelly Bentley.)
  • The school is doing relatively well academically — it received a C grade from the state last year — and the district estimates that the graduation rate for the class of 2017 will be 97.6 percent, one of the highest in the district.
  • It’s home to a beloved visual and performing arts magnet program that attracts students from across the district. Under the administration proposal, that program would continue to operate at Shortridge High School.

Here are some reasons Broad Ripple is facing closure:

  • The school is expected to be just 25 percent full this fall, with 591 students in a building designed to fit 2,400.
  • The cost of operating the Broad Ripple campus is slightly less than the district average at $1,234 per student, but by increasing enrollment at the remaining four schools, the district will almost certainly reduce those costs.
  • The four schools the administration recommended keeping are near downtown, which IPS says will make transportation easier and cheaper for the all-magnet model. Broad Ripple is at the far northern edge of the district, and it would be a long commute for many students.
  • In fact, because the arts magnet attracts students from across IPS, bus rides average 7.39 miles — the longest of any high school and nearly double the district average.
  • Finally, Broad Ripple is located in a thriving area where development is booming, making it one of the most valuable properties the district owns. The district expects it could sell the property for $6 million to $8 million.

Correction (July 18, 2017): This story has been updated to reflect that Broad Ripple High School was not built in 1923, as stated in the IPS high school closing report. That was the year the school, which was founded decades earlier, joined the district.

School closings

Marshall closing meeting draws tiny crowd, just two speakers

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Fewer than 20 people filled the seats of the John Marshall auditorium Thursday.

There was little sign of interest from the community at a public forum Thursday about closing John Marshall Middle School. Fewer than 20 people filled the seats of the auditorium of the beleaguered school, and the meeting ended less than seven minutes after it began.

“Seeing no one here, I think we are going to go ahead and adjoin to our regular business meeting,” said Indianapolis Public Schools board President Mary Ann Sullivan.

The board typically requires people to sign up to speak in advance, but for the second meeting in a row, Sullivan opened the floor to anyone.

There was just one speaker: Jerry Coverstone, who ran an unsuccessful independent campaign for state senate in 2016. Coverstone, who grew up in the neighborhood but attended a township high school, focused on Indiana’s private school voucher program.

“I look and see how the school voucher program is providing tax-funded money to private, religious-based schools, and then I turn around and I see our public schools closing down,” Coverstone said. “That bothers me.”

The meeting was one of several public forums the board is holding about a proposal to close Marshall and Broad Ripple High School and convert two other high schools to middle schools. The district voted last summer to convert Marshall, which had served grades 7-12, to a dedicated middle school this year. If the board approves the plan to close the school, the students will relocate to the Arlington campus.

The board will hold forums at 5:30 p.m. August 29 at Arlington High School and August 31 at Northwest High School.

One other commenter, Nathan Harris, arrived after the public forum ended but spoke during the regular board meeting. Harris, who graduated from Arsenal Technical High School, also spoke Tuesday at the meeting at Broad Ripple High School. That meeting drew close to 200 people and lasted about an hour and half, in stark contrast with the forum at Marshall.

Sullivan speculated that the meeting may have been smaller because the campus is already scheduled to convert to a middle school.

“It makes me sad,” she said. “I would like to think that all of our schools have been special places for someone.”

School closings

After years of academic woes, John Marshall will probably close next year. Here’s why.

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
IPS leaders are considering a plan to close three high schools.

The past several years have been tough for families at John Marshall: Amid dismal test scores and declining graduation rates, it fended off stake takeover, was converted to a middle school and was nearly restarted with an outside manager.

Now, the school is likely to close.

The school, which is on the far eastside of Indianapolis Public Schools, would close under a plan released by Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee last month. The students at Marshall would be transferred to Arlington, which the administration wants to convert to a middle school. The IPS board is expected to vote in September.

The board will have a meeting about the plan 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Marshall, which will begin with 90 minutes for public comment. The deadline to sign up online to speak is noon Thursday. It follows a meeting Tuesday at Broad Ripple High School, where dozens of people spoke out against closing the school.

Whether the Marshall community will be as outspoken remains to be seen, but it is clear that the board has many competing interests as it decides whether to close the school.

Here are some reasons to keep Marshall open:

  • The far eastside neighborhood around Marshall has its fair share of challenges. About 29 percent of residents live in poverty, and the median household income is $35,800. But the area has strong support from the Glick foundation, which has invested heavily at nearby School 103, the district’s first attempt to turnaround a failing school by partnering with a charter network to create an innovation school.
  • Closing Marshall could leave a gap in the neighborhood that would be hard to fill, and the district does not have a clear proposal for reusing or selling the 342,062 square foot campus. It can fit 1,650 students but just 498 middle and high schoolers were enrolled last year.
  • Marshall will convert to a middle school this fall as part of a district plan to eliminate schools that serve grades 7-12. By closing the school immediately after having restructured it as a middle school, IPS would add more instability, which research shows is bad for student outcomes.

Here are some reasons Marshall is facing closure:

  • The school has academic challenges. The 2017 graduation rate is expected to be 54.7 percent (the lowest in the district) and test scores are rock bottom. IPS leaders have struggled to come up with a plan for improving the school, despite pressure from the neighborhood.
  • Marshall is on the far eastside of the district, and it would be hard to get students from other neighborhoods to travel there for a magnet high school. The four high schools the administration recommended keeping are all near the center of the district, where officials say it will be easier to bus students from across IPS.
  • The Marshall campus is in worse shape than any other high school, according to the IPS school closing report. The district says the school needs nearly $45 million in repairs, and it needs significant asbestos remediation.