Update: Members of the Indianapolis Public Schools board of commissioners voted unanimously to approve Rebuilding Stronger at the Nov. 17, 2022 meeting.
The Indianapolis Public Schools board of commissioners is set to consider Rebuilding Stronger, the district’s massive reorganization proposal, for a vote on Thursday.
The sweeping proposal closes six schools and reconfigures grades at dozens of others throughout the district in an effort to increase enrollment, stabilize finances, and bring more educational opportunities to students of color.
Read the initial rollout of the plan here, and learn about its potential impact and how lPS leaders have revised it in our stories below.
District makes late changes to Rebuilding Stronger
Officials have announced three major changes to the proposal since district officials first unveiled it in September.
In October, the district said it would not close the Center for Inquiry at School 2 and force it to merge with Urban Act Academy, an innovation charter school tasked with turning around Washington Irving School 14.
(Officials have also said they plan not to renew the district’s innovation agreement with Urban Act, citing poor academic performance. A new agreement with Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation will be brought before the school board for a vote in early 2023, officials said Tuesday.)
In another revision to the original plan in October, officials said that the district would not demolish Francis W. Parker Montessori School 56, which in the initial version of Rebuilding Stronger would have been converted into a new middle school for Sidener Academy for High Ability Students. Instead, the district said it would work with the community to figure out best future uses for the site.
School 56 students, however, would still move from their building into James Russell Lowell School 51.
This week, officials also announced that they would not bring the charter school Global Prep into Harshman Middle School to operate a dual language program there. Instead, Harshman would run both the dual language and high ability tracks.
New taxes sought to fund Rebuilding Stronger
The plan requires IPS to ask voters for $810 million in new taxes through two ballot questions: one for about $410 million in capital projects, and another for about $50 million in operating expenses each year for eight years.
The property tax increase would mean a $6 monthly increase for a resident whose home is valued at $138,500, the median home value within the district.
In making a pitch for the new taxes, IPS officials have noted that the district has delivered on its promise to increase teacher pay since voters last approved a tax increase for that purpose in 2018. Since then, the average teacher salary has increased from $58,133 to $74,826, according to the district.
IPS eyes stipends to retain staff
Staff at schools that would close or merge with others are still uncertain about their futures in IPS.
The district has stressed the plan would not leave any current staff without a job. That promise does not extend to staff at the two independently run innovation schools whose partnerships with the district would not be renewed at the end of this school year.
The district estimates that 119 staff would be affected by school closures, and would offer those staff $10,000 retention stipends.
Under Rebuilding Stronger, IPS would also offer a retention bonus of $12,000 for principals affected by school consolidation or grade reconfiguration, and $20,000 for principals at schools proposed for closure.
The principal selection process for two schools that would reopen their doors to students, Broad Ripple and Howe Middle Schools, would begin in January 2023, the district said on Tuesday.
Schools that would switch to a new type of academic program, such as International Baccalaureate, would receive an additional administrator in the 2023-24 school year to help prepare the school for the shift.
Rebuilding Stronger’s impact on equity divides opinion
The plan tries to address existing educational inequities, but it has also sparked opposition from parents who say its impact would be unfair.
The plan would expand certain specialized programming including Montessori, IB courses, and dual-language programs. Currently, only students living within certain boundaries can access these programs.
By closing and merging schools that are well under capacity, the plan’s supporters say, Rebuilding Stronger would allow the district to operate more efficiently. Officials also say the blueprint would reduce the number of student transfers by enacting four large enrollment zones to give students more options.
Officials also say all middle school students would gain access to Algebra I, world language courses, and band and orchestra.
But parents at schools that are closing question why their children need to move. And other parents affiliated with pro-charter school groups argue that the expansion of IB or Montessori programs won’t deliver the best outcome for students of color. Instead, these parents have pushed for the district to partner with the Paramount charter school network.
The district said on Tuesday that it is exploring possible opportunities for a future partnership with Paramount.
Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.