4 closing IPS schools will see new uses, revival under approved plan

A run down building sits in front of a grass lawn with trees to the building’s right under a blue sky.
Paul Miller School 114, one of six Indianapolis Public Schools buildings slated to close, will house the district’s Facilities and Maintenance Division as well as a new adult charter school. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

Indianapolis Public Schools has plans to reuse four of six schools slated to close to students at the end of this school year, including moving its facilities division to one location and partnering with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to use two buildings. 

The resolution approved by the school board on Tuesday describes next steps for Floro Torrence School 83, George Buck School 94, Paul Miller School 114, and Francis Parker School 56. 

The district is still exploring reuse options for the Francis Bellamy Preschool Center and Raymond Brandes School 65. 

The reuse plan is part of the district’s Rebuilding Stronger overhaul, which is closing the six schools in an attempt to operate more efficiently while expanding specialized academic programming and preschool.

Charter schools had expressed interest in occupying some of the closing school buildings through an older version of the state’s so-called $1 law, which allowed charters to buy or lease unused or vacant classroom buildings for $1. Adelante Schools, for instance, hoped to occupy Raymond Brandes School 65. 

The Indiana Charter School Network filed an attorney general’s complaint against the district in December, arguing that IPS violated the state law by not offering the buildings to charter schools. But the attorney general’s office ruled in favor of IPS, noting the district still had plans to use the buildings after the schools closed. 

But a revised version of the $1 law exempts school districts from the requirement to offer certain school buildings to charters if  they share additional property tax revenue for operational or safety expenses — approved by voters through a ballot question —  with charter schools. School districts in Marion County are required to share such referendum funds under other new legislation. 

The district also plans to sell six small surplus land parcels near schools, which the district estimates would bring in an extra tens to low hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Indiana School for the Blind to use two buildings

The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will temporarily occupy Floro Torrence School 83 and George Buck School 94 while its permanent campus is renovated. Students will come to the campuses in August 2024 and stay five or six years. 

The 100 Black Men nonprofit, which provides programs to uplift and mentor Black youth, will also use School 83 as a space for summer programming in 2023-24 before the ISBVI occupies the space. 

Facilities division, charter school to use Paul Miller School 114

The Paul Miller School 114 building on the district’s south side will house its Facilities and Maintenance Division, consolidating staff that are currently located in Arlington Middle School, northwest Middle School, and the Broad Ripple High School that will reopen as a middle school under the Rebuilding Stronger plan. 

The school’s open layout is much more conducive to facility needs than other school spaces, district officials said. 

The newly approved Excel Center - Twin Aire, the seventh Excel Center adult charter high school to open in Indianapolis, will also use School 114 on a long-term basis.

Johnson said housing the charter and the FMD in the same building could lead to  partnership opportunities for Excel students to work with the FMD team after graduation. 

The district will also collect community input to determine the best use of the school’s playground and green space. 

IPS hopes to preserve, repair Francis Parker School 56

The district hopes to restore the historic Francis W. Parker Montessori School 56 in the city’s Hillside neighborhood, which the district classifies as being in “exceptionally poor” condition. 

The building, constructed in 1931, is located near the popular Monon Trail in a gentrifying area of the city. The district previously scrapped its plans to tear down the building amid community pushback and gentrification concerns

“We want to continue to maintain ownership of that building,” Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said in a media briefing before the school board meeting. “We are committed to continuing to explore how we renovate and use that building for instructional purposes in the future.”

Susan Leach School 68, which has not been used for classes since 2019, will serve as the district’s new warehousing and distribution space. 

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

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