Things are looking good for School 93.
At a time when many schools are grappling with lower state funding and education leaders are struggling to crack the code for improving chronically failing schools, the picture at School 93 is a little bit different.
The east side school will get more than $1.3 million from the state over the next five years — the state announced last week that will spread a total of $16 million to 14 struggling schools that will use the money to improve student test scores.
“As I travel the state, I see school leaders and educators working every day to improve instruction and outcomes for Hoosier students,” state Superintendent Glenda Ritz said in a statement announcing the grants. “I am dedicated to supporting the great work that is happening in our schools and providing additional resources to support our students.”
School 93 is one of two Marion County schools that were chosen to receive funds. The other school was Sunny Heights Elementary in Warren Township, which will get about $1.2 million.
School 93 leaders say they will use the cash to help pay for a wide array of programs at the school including increasing the amount of time students spend in school, adding teacher training days and hiring staff to work with parents, who often come to the school for help with tasks like applying for jobs. The school could begin spending the money as soon as January, according to principal Nicole Fama.
“We want to not just raise our scores academically but also provide a really well-rounded environment,” she said.
School 93 has an unusual turnaround story. Since the chronically failing school began using the homegrown turnaround model Project Restore two years ago, it saw its state letter grade go from an F to a C in just one year. This year, it is one of two successful schools that the IPS board converted to innovation schools, giving school leaders more control over management.
The school serves a needy population. Nearly 83 percent of kids are poor enough to qualify for meal assistance, and many students face barriers such as homelessness.
In addition to adding hours to the school year and teacher training, Fama said school leaders hope to use the funding to hire additional staff members, like a data coach, someone to help train teachers and staff to help students with mental health issues.
Because the extra money will dry up at the end of the five-year grant, Fama is aiming to create programs that the school will be able to sustain without the funding. For example, the data coach could train another educator to take over the work and new tutoring programs could be sustained with community volunteers.
“We are not going to add anything that when the grant ends, we are just going to have to cut off,” Fama said. “Part of the goal is to get things in place so that when the grant runs out, things can be continued.”