School Closings

Dozens rally to protest closing high schools in Indianapolis Public Schools

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi

On the eve of learning which Indianapolis high schools could face closure, about 50 protesters rallied outside the Indianapolis Public Schools central office with a demand: Hold off.

Parents, teachers and community members gathered ahead of an IPS board meeting. The protest was organized by a loose coalition of groups including Concerned Clergy.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee will announce Wednesday which three of the seven high schools the administration recommends closing. The board will vote on the final plan in September.

Chalkbeat spoke to several of the protesters about why they were there and what they hoped to accomplish.

Elaine Bultman

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
Elaine Bultman

Indianapolis Education Association member, 27-year teaching veteran, former teacher at School 15.

“There are so many different plans that could be used with these schools to keep them open. They’re in the communities where people live. This is taking our kids away from public education and forcing them to leave the community. No one wins. Students are constantly being transferred here to there, teachers are being transferred here to there. We’re losing our home…(I want IPS) to slow down.”

Bultman said the district did not allow enough community input in the process. “Simply having community meetings (isn’t enough). The decisions have been made about which schools are closing. That’s not input from our community.”

 

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
Stardust A

Stardust A

Parent of a student at Crispus Attucks High School.

“It’s about privatization and taking funds away from the public … I’m all about accountability. When you put money into private hands, they’re not accountable to us. They don’t have to provide the same services. The money should go straight to the kids. (I hope) maybe that (the school board members) see some dissent and slow it down. The board needs to know that their constituents are paying attention.”

 

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
Muhammad Siddeeq

Muhammad Siddeeq

Former science teacher at Shortridge and John Marshall high schools.

Siddeeq said IPS is now struggling with high school enrollment because of its own mistakes.

“You created this situation. They bomb our school populations, and then say, ‘You know what, we don’t have enough students to go to school!’ We’re really being invaded. And then they come to us and say, ‘You have a choice.’ Well, yeah, we have a choice, after you already wiped out any way of us possibly resisting.”

“The main thing is to alert the public and to hopefully put in the conscience of the school board to take a second look at how they’re conducting themselves.”

 

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
Antonio Cardenas

Antonio Cardenas

Sophomore at Shortridge High School.

“It just breaks all of our hearts at Shortridge … A couple weeks before school let out, they were there talking to us, and they stopped taking questions from us after one of our kids said, ‘You’re trying to pack us into a can of sardines.’ They stopped the interview right there with the whole school and wouldn’t take any more questions. They refused to talk to our teachers afterward, and they just left out of nowhere.”

Cardenas said Shortridge is a successful school academically. “It’s growing really rapidly, but IPS isn’t looking at that. It’s looking at the student ratio to the building, but it’s not about that, it’s about how well we’re doing as a school.”

 

PHOTO: Hafsa Razi
Michelle Sanders

Michelle Sanders

Member of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis from Purpose of Life Ministries.

“(There’s) a lack of communication and involvement of the community. … (We need) a new transition team of folks that have community voices and not just consultants to make the decisions on what to close if there are closures.”

Sanders said IPS can’t expect to be able to move students around the city easily. “Indianapolis is a large community that’s spread apart. You can’t necessarily just close half the high schools — you’re going to create transportation issues, you’re going to create cultural issues. It just creates a lot of different issues that I don’t think they’ve addressed.”

new schools

New $85 million Englewood high school to focus on science and technology, careers

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools
A rendering of the new $85 million high school planned in Englewood.

Chicago Public Schools announced Monday that it will open a “state-of-the-art” high school focusing on career-preparation and math, science and engineering education in Englewood, a South Side community where the district is closing several high schools.

Englewood STEM High School already under construction, will open next fall with just freshman and add a grade each subsequent year until it becomes a full-fledged 9-12 school in the 2022-23 school year, according to a press release issued by the school district.

The school will be the district’s ninth “early college” STEM high school, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The district is building the $85 million school on the site of Robeson High School, which was closed over the summer.

Englewood STEM High School will be “a brand new, state-of-the-art, three-story facility that will include world-class multipurpose educational spaces, a modern outdoor sports facility, and a school-based medical center for use by both students as well as community residents,” according to the district’s statement. Students will be able to earn college credits and certificates through a partnership with Kennedy-King College. The school will also offer vocational programs in information technology and health sciences and will provide mentoring, internships and other work experiences.

“We are thrilled to bring together Englewood students in the state-of-the-art high school they deserve with world-class academic programming that will ensure the new school rivals the city’s best,” district CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement.

A rendering of the new $85 million high school planned in Englewood.

The school is intended to attract students in the Robeson, Hope and Harper school areas who leave their neighborhoods for higher-rated schools elsewhere. Both Hope and Harper are slated to close. TEAM Englewood, the fourth school closing, doesn’t have attendance boundaries.

The district named Conrad Timbers-Ausar as the new school’s principal. Timbers-Ausar was previously principal of charter school Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, in Bronzeville. He was the founding principal at two alternative schools, Ombudsman West and Ombudsman South, and has taught history, graphic design and entrepreneurship at the Chicago International Charter Schools Ralph Ellison campus, where he was twice voted teacher of the year.

Future of Schools

Chicago’s public school system is still shrinking, new data shows

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Charles Wiriawan

After 15 years of consecutive drops, the number of students enrolled in Chicago’s public schools fell again this year.

Enrollment dropped 2.7 percent, to 361,314 students, from the previous fall, according to a count taken on the 20th day of school. New data were released Friday. (The district also released new school ratings on Friday. You can find your school’s latest rating here.)

Size matters, because the number of students determines how many critical state dollars a district receives. In Chicago, state funding accounts for roughly 30 percent of the district budget, including paying into the employee pension fund.

At the school level, per-student funding determines how many teachers a principal can hire, whether or not there are librarians and arts teachers, and how many programs are offered. Principals received this school year’s budgets last spring based on prior year counts.

Schools that lost students will not lose funding for this year; however, 54 schools that anticipated growth and that did not hit targets will lose money. The average adjustment per school is $59,000, with $3.2 million in total forfeited, the district said. The district said in a statement that it will not eliminate any jobs as a result.

On the flip side, the district also announced that schools that gained students since last school year would receive additional funding — to total $15.5 million across 307 schools. That’s to account for budgeting that was based on previous year counts.

“The district’s improved financial position means we can support growing schools and invest more in schools where enrollment is declining with funds specifically designed to support schools that are underenrolled,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson.

Plans to support schools losing population include such assists as a $10 million small schools fund and a new underenrolled schools policy — passed by the board this week — that codifies alternatives to closure.

The number of students in Chicago charters declined by 1 percent to total 54,569, and the number of prekindergarten students dropped by less than 1 percent, too, to 17,668, despite a citywide push under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago schools aren’t the only ones shrinking. Enrollment is down across the state. A declining birth rate, fewer immigrants, and a population in retrenchment are all to blame.

District projections show Chicago schools losing another 20,000 students across the next three years. The trends mirror population drops in Chicago, which has about 182,000 fewer residents than it did 18 years ago, according to U.S. Census data. More than 220,000 black residents have left the city since the year 2000.