How to navigate IPS’ school reorganization and new enrollment policies for 2024-25

A line of young children walk down the hall of a school hallway.
Students walk down the hall of James Whitcomb Riley School 43. Next year, the school will lose its middle school grades as IPS reconfigures many schools across the district. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

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Thousands of Indianapolis Public Schools students will see big changes next year when the district splits up more than a dozen schools, gives families a wider choice of schools, and expands the reach of its specialized academic programs. 

The changes are the second part of the district’s massive Rebuilding Stronger reorganization, which seeks to bring more diverse academic programming and extracurricular activities to more students in a push for equity. The plan also seeks to stabilize enrollment amid growing competition from charter schools.

The plan could have a big impact on where families choose to enroll. 

Starting in 2024-25, the district will break up 17 K-8 schools into 16 standalone elementary schools and one middle school. Other schools will switch from serving grades K-6 to K-5, and from 7-8 to 6-8.

The district is organizing its schools into four new enrollment zones encompassing different educational options. Families can apply for a spot at any of the schools located in their zone, rather than being restricted to their neighborhood school or to old school-choice boundaries. 

Each zone has a mix of schools that specialize in different subjects or programs, such as arts, STEM, Montessori, International Baccalaureate, dual language, high ability, or the Reggio-Emilia approach. Some schools that do not have these specific programs are “exploratory” schools. The plan also assigns new feeder schools for these specialized schools, guiding students from elementary to middle school. 

Some schools serve multiple zones.

High schools will serve all zones and will still be open to all students in the district, no matter where they live.

The first enrollment period for 2024-25 runs from Nov. 1, 2023, to Jan. 24, 2024, with results of the lottery released on Feb. 22. The second enrollment period runs from Jan. 25 through April 19, with results released on May 16.

The district has held school tours and open houses every weekday for the past month, and plans a showcase event Nov. 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. in which every school will be open for families to visit. 

Here are answers to some of the big questions inspired by Chalkbeat Indiana readers about the upcoming enrollment process:

What is the easiest way for me to enroll?

The district encourages families to enroll online through Enroll Indy, which runs the lottery for IPS. Families who visit a school to enroll will still use Enroll Indy’s online application.

Will my child get transportation to any school in our zone?

Yes, families who choose a school in the zone where they live will receive transportation to and from that school. However, families who live close enough to the school to be classified as a “walker” will not receive transportation. See if you qualify as a “walker” here.

Families can apply to a school outside their zone, but IPS gives preference to students who live in the zone. Families must also provide their own transportation to a school outside of their zone beyond the 2024-25 school year. 

Schools in the IPS Innovation Network may not offer transportation through IPS, and may require families to contact the school directly for transportation.

The proposed new enrollment policy talks about ‘priority groups.’ What are those, and how will they affect my chances of getting into the school I want?

The lottery gives certain groups of students preferences that can increase their chances of getting a spot in the school they want. Priority is given, in this order, to:

  • Students living in the IPS district
  • Siblings of a current student at the school
  • Families who live in the same zone as the school
  • Students who attended a closing school
  • Students with a guardian who is an IPS employee

My child is attending a school that will be in our zone next year. Do I need to do anything to reenroll them?

If families are happy in their current school and plan to stay there for the 2024-25 school year, they do not need to reapply or reenroll, according to the district. 

What happens if the school I want in my zone is at capacity?

Families can select another school in their zone, according to the district. 

When IPS unveiled the plan last year, Evan Hawkins, school board president at the time, said the district has not historically seen families crowd any one school. 

My child’s new zone is different from the one in which their current school is located. Can they stay at that school next year?

Yes, families can remain at their current school until the student graduates from the school’s highest grade, according to the district.

If families are eligible for transportation at the school this year, they will be offered transportation in 2024-25, but not after that.

What happens if I want or need to transfer to another IPS school midyear?

Families who move in the middle of the school year to a different zone can apply for a seat at a school in their new zone through Enroll Indy, according to the district. Or the student can stay at their current school, provided they have their own transportation. 

But students won’t be permitted to switch schools midyear for a personal preference. They would need to wait until the next enrollment period to apply to a different school. 

There are exceptions, though, for students who:

  • Need special medical services offered by the desired school 
  • Experience bullying at their current school 
  • Are in physical danger due to documented issues with other students at the current school 
  • Have a sibling who attends a special education program in the desired school 

How can I easily compare school options?

IPS advises visiting Enroll Indy to preview school options. 

Have a question about IPS enrollment that’s not answered? Email us at in.tips@chalkbeat.org

Corrections and clarifications: This article has been updated to correctly note transportation options and clarify that some schools serve multiple zones. The accompanying map has also been updated to correct information on schools and add schools that were omitted.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org

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