Carson pitches Global Prep charter school to be housed by IPS

The developer of a Spanish language charter school opening in 2016 today asked the Indianapolis Public School Board to house the school in one of its buildings.

Mariama Carson, a former Pike Township principal and wife of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, already has approval from Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office to launch a 220-student charter school called Global Prep Academy, which is designed to eventually serve roughly equal numbers of native English and Spanish speakers in grades K to 8. It will start with grades K to 2.

“Two way immersion serves the native English speaker just as it serves the native Spanish speaker,” Carson said.

Carson told the city’s charter school board last month that she hoped to open the school in Lafayette Square on the city’s Northwest side. At tonight’s meeting of the Indianapolis Public School Board, Carson pitched the idea of a joint venture with the district.

The closest school to the area is School 79, which has been rated an A for five straight years. Carson said she and the district would only consider bringing her school to buildings that have low test scores or have shown little progress.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said district officials liked what they heard from Carson, and said IPS could look at several options to partner if the board chose to do so. It could allow Global Prep to operate in an empty school, share space in a school with low enrollment or convert an existing IPS school into Global Prep.

“We have not committed to any neighborhood preference,” Ferebee said. “But you want to be in a neighborhood that lends itself to that model.”

Three similar partnerships already are in place. Enlace Academy charter school shared building space last year with Gambold Prep High School, and KIPP charter school operates in the former School 110 building on the city’s East side. This year, Enlace will take over the entire building for its growing program, as the Gambold program is moving to Shortridge High School.

At School 60, The Butler Lab School started out overseeing just students kindergarten and first grade in part of the building when it opened in 2011. It has since expanded to manage all grades at the school. But it is a bit different, with the university playing a heavy role in overseeing a school that still remains fully IPS-run.

A different kind of district-charter partnership also is underway at School 103, which this year will be run independently by operators of the Phalen Leadership Academy charter school. But in that case, Phalen’s team will manage an IPS school. School 103 will not become a charter school.

Under Carson’s proposal, her team would bring their program to an IPS building and operate it as a charter school entirely separate from IPS. In essence, the district would serve as the landlord and possibly offer other services such as meals or busing.

Carson’s idea was featured in Chalkbeat’s recent series about English language learning, Lost in Translation, in a story from its reporting partner, WFYI Publc Media. She said innovative schools like Global Prep are needed to serve Indianapolis’ fast-growing Hispanic community.

The city has a few dual-language immersion programs, in which students speak in the language they are learning while taking their other subjects, including the private International School on the North side and Lawrence Township’s Forest Glen Elementary School. Forest Glen has followed a foreign language immersion program for 20 years.

The school would be another “innovation network school,” a type of unique partnership the legislature approved in 2014. If the board agreed, Global Prep would also be the district’s second language immersion school. School 74 on the city’s East side, a B-rated magnet school where 89 percent of students passed ISTEP in 2014. That’s one of the district’s highest passing rates.

Ferebee said the School 74 program is on the district’s list of successful magnet schools it is considering expanding, especially into middle and high school grades.

Carson can submit a formal application in October and a detailed plan in November, IPS officials said. The board is expected to choose future innovation schools in January.