‘You hate to see it end so soon’: Arlington High School has its final last day of school

The hallways, lined with vacant green lockers, are quiet. The classrooms, once filled by eager high school students, are empty. The auditorium of Arlington High School will soon be consumed with graduating seniors and proud parents.

Thursday was the last day of school for Indianapolis Public Schools. But for students at Arlington High School, it’s a little more final: It’s one of three high schools closing this year as part of a district-wide consolidation.

“It is very bittersweet,” Arlington principal Stan Law said. “You always have to embrace change because it’s a constant, but at the same time, when you pour sweat and tears into building something we built here at Arlington, you hate to see it end so soon. ”

He said the hardest part of the transition will be leaving his students.

“Some of the students will go elsewhere,” said Law, who has been principal there since 2015. “You’ve built relationships with them, with their families. You won’t necessarily see them next year. ”

For Arlington, the closure is the finale of a rocky history over the last six years. It was taken over by the Indiana State Board of Education in 2012 after six years of F grades under Indiana’s A-F grading system, briefly run by a charter operator assigned to turn it around, and returned to the district in 2015.

Now it joins a list of three other district schools closing this year, including Northwest High School, Broad Ripple High School, and John Marshall Middle School. Arlington and Northwest will reopen as middle schools and places for additional services, such as the newcomer program and a night high school.

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board voted to close the schools last September because the district had more than twice as many seats in high schools as students to fill them.

The district estimated it could save more than $7 million by eliminating empty seats and reconfiguring schools.

About 5,000 high school students in the district will be combined at the four remaining campuses — Shortridge High School, Arsenal Technical High School, George Washington High School, and Crispus Attucks High School.

All four remaining schools will be specialized college and career academies in subjects such as business, the arts, and information technology. Students will choose a new school based on a  subject area that interests them. They will complete this program alongside their traditional classwork.

Mareon Sneed will start his senior year this fall at George Washington High School — nearly 15 miles west of Arlington. He had only been at Arlington for a year after moving to Indianapolis from Muskegon, Michigan.

He was still adjusting to a new life at Arlington, so choosing another new high school didn’t come easy.

Sneed chose to follow his former principal to George Washington. Law will take over there as principal, replacing Emily Butler. This is Law’s 17th year in a district leadership position.

“It was hard at first,” Sneed said. “But it eventually got easier because I realized I didn’t want to leave the new friends I made and the new people I’ve met. I didn’t want to start all over.”

Juniors Leyha Jones, Brennon Sneed and Mareon Sneed pose in the nearly-vacant Arlington High School library. Arlington is one of three Indianapolis high schools closing after Thursday. (Shelby Mullis)

For Brennon Sneed, Mareon’s cousin, the decision of a new school comes at a more personal cost. Brennon Sneed has been Law’s student since seventh grade. Now, the two are parting ways.

He said Law and other administrators had a large impact on his life. Sometimes they would pull him aside to talk when they saw him making bad decisions.

“They helped me grow into a better person,” he said. “I’d be in trouble somewhere if I didn’t have anybody tell me not to do this or not to do that.”

Brennon Sneed will finish his high school career at Lawrence North High School where he’ll play football. Football and academics were deciding factors in his decision to enroll there, he said.

Leyha Jones, a junior, said she has until July to decide what school she wants to attend this fall. She is basing her decision off what she hopes to do in the future and the programs each school offers, whether it be law or media communications.

“It’s just difficult leaving family because you’ve built a relationship with the administrators and friends and different people you meet,” Jones said. “It’s difficult to leave them and go to a different school where you barely know people, especially during our senior year. It’s the most important year. It’s difficult starting all over.”

Correction: June 7, 2018: A previous version of this story said Mareon Sneed and Brennon Sneed are not related. They are cousins.