Indianapolis charter school for troubled youth closes days before school starts

A struggling Indianapolis charter school designed to serve the city’s most troubled youth will close just days before the beginning of the school year, officials said Friday.

Marion Academy, which enrolled about 120 students in grades 6 to12 last year, was created for students who have been in the juvenile justice system, were expelled or were at-risk of expulsion. It also ran a program for students in the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center that served about 60 students.

The school was in a financial bind because it struggled to recruit students and the juvenile detention center chose to find another education partner, according to a press release. “Budget projections were not strong enough to get the school through the 2019-20 year,” the release said. In 2018, Marion Academy had among the lowest passing rates on state tests in the county for 3-8 grades, and no students passed both the math and English state high school tests.

In a statement, Rev. Reginald Fletcher, board chairman for Marion Academy, said the school would help families find new schools.

“We realize how sudden and frustrating this is for families who have been planning to return to school this week, but we would be remiss if we allowed the school to open when it is not financially sustainable,” he said. “We’ll be working diligently with the mayor’s office, Enroll Indy, and other partners to ensure transitions for all students, staff, and families are as smooth as possible.”

The school will hold a meeting for parents at 6 p.m. Tuesday on campus. They will host school fairs so families can learn about other options at 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

The timing of the decision will be difficult for families because some Indianapolis schools already began, and Indianapolis Public Schools begins on Monday.

Founded in 2015, the mayor-sponsored charter school was troubled from its creation, according to an article published in Indianapolis Monthly in 2016. The article reported that when it launched, the school had financial problems, inexperienced staff, persistent discipline issues, and inadequate special education services.