School Closings

Arlington alumni implore the Indianapolis Public Schools Board: ‘Don’t give up on the students and staff’

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Andrea Price, an alumna of Arlington High School, was one of dozens who spoke at a meeting about converting the campus to a middle school.

More than a hundred people gathered at Arlington High School Tuesday night for a meeting about a plan to close the school and convert it to a middle school.

Dozens walked down the aisles to stand at the microphones at the front of the mostly empty auditorium and make their case to the Indianapolis Public Schools Board. Many pled for the board not to close the school, highlighting the community and alumni support at the school, the quality of the campus and rising graduation rates — which have gone from 41 percent to 80 percent in two years. But a handful of people also spoke in support of the district plan.

The school on the northeast side of the district would close at the end of the year and the campus would be converted to a middle school under a high school reconfiguration plan proposed by the administration. The plan also calls for converting Northwest High School to a middle school, and closing Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall Middle School. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan in September.

The meeting is the third public forum the board has held since announcing the plan. The meeting at Broad Ripple High School drew a large crowd, while the one at John Marshall Middle School attracted just a handful of people.

The board will have the last meeting at a high school scheduled for closure at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northwest. The deadline to sign up to speak is noon Thursday.

Here are some comments — edited for brevity and clarity — from parents and alumni at the meeting.

Timothy Bass, alumnus

“I stand here on behalf of all the students who attend Arlington who feel they have no voice. In the last two years, Arlington has endured more challenges than any other IPS high school in the district without much success, without much support from this administration.

“Three years ago, you gave principal Stan Law and his staff 45 days to get this school prepared for the 2015-2016 school year. When the school opened it was under-staffed, our athletic teams had no uniforms. But somehow as a community we all came together.

“These decisions that you are making unfortunately affect many poor whites, Latinos and our black and white students who come from poor communities.

“Tonight you will hear about the many partnerships we have built. We have some of the best alumni in the state of Indiana.

“I am asking you to reconsider and leave Arlington open as a high school.”

Dawn Perez, parent

“I have two students in IPS. The closure of these schools is going to be a disaster for the surrounding communities. My daughter is in 8th grade. Where is she going to go to school next year if Northwest closes?

“I took 34 minutes to drive, and if she has to be bused somewhere else — I mean, I drive, but I know other parents don’t drive. How is that going to affect their way of life? It’s going to affect all the students’ way of life.

“It’s going to be a disaster, and I don’t see $4 million saving any of the children’s lives.”

Latoya Tahirou, parent

“I am here tonight to ask you to support the new plan to restructure IPS high schools. I believe the college and career academies plan proposed by IPS is the right direction for this school system.

“Two of my children are currently enrolled at (Phalen Leadership Academy at School 103). One is in pre-k and one is in kindergarten, and it is my hope that by the time they are old enough to go to high school, that IPS will have the best schools in the state of Indiana. But the honest truth is that our high schools are failing our kids. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. That’s why I am supporting this new plan as a parent of IPS kids.

“I know a lot of people have really strong feelings about their high school closing, but what we have to keep in mind is what is best for our children.”

Sharon Baker, alumna

“Students and staff come and go but one thing remains the same, this is a place where students can learn and feel safe away from their family stress. There have been tumultuous times in this school, but even now there is learning still taking place and success happening.

“This school has produced teachers, lawyers, actors, military. The list is endless. This is not just a school that has fallen on hard times or one that people have lost faith in. This is a place that has produced greatness. It has produced many people who have become successful.

“I myself am a school teacher, and I have been at the same school for 34 years. I learned that kind of loyalty from the Arlington teachers.

“Arlington is still standing, so don’t give up on the students and staff.”

new year

Here are the Memphis schools opening and closing this school year

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Alcy Elementary Schools is being demolished this summer to make way for a new building on the same property that will also house students from Charjean and Magnolia elementary schools.

Six schools will open and six will close as the new school year begins next month.

This year’s closures are composed mostly of charter schools. That’s a shift from recent years — about two dozen district-run schools have shuttered since 2012. All of the schools opening are charter schools, bringing the district’s total to 57, which is more than half of the charter schools statewide.

Below is a list of closures and openings Chalkbeat has compiled from Shelby County Schools and the state-run Achievement School District.

Schools Opening

  • Believe Memphis Academy is a new college preparatory charter school that will focus on literacy while serving students in fourth and fifth grade, with plans to expand to eighth grade.
  • Crosstown High School will focus on creating student projects that solve problems of local businesses and organizations. The school will start with 150 ninth-graders and will be housed in a building shared with businesses and apartments in Crosstown Concourse, a renovated Sears warehouse.
  • Freedom Preparatory Academy will open its fifth school starting with middle schoolers. It will eventually expand to create the Memphis network’s second high school in the Whitehaven and Nonconnah communities.
  • Memphis Business Academy will open an elementary school and a middle school in Hickory Hill. The schools were originally slated to open in 2017, but were delayed to finalize property and financing, CEO Anthony Anderson said.
  • Perea Elementary School will focus on emotional health and community supports for families living in poverty. District leaders initially rejected its application, but school board members approved it. They liked the organization’s academic and community work with preschoolers in the same building.

Schools Closing

  • Alcy Elementary School will be demolished this summer to make room for a new building. It is expected to open in 2020 with students from Charjean and Magnolia elementary schools.
  • Du Bois High School of Arts and Technology and Du Bois High School of Leadership and Public Policy will close. The charter network’s founder, Willie Herenton, a former Memphis school superintendent, said in April the schools are closing because of a severe shortage of qualified teachers.
  • GRAD Academy, part of the Achievement School District, announced in January the high school would close because the Houston-based charter organization could not sustain it. It was the third school in the district to close since the state-run district started in 2012.
  • Legacy Leadership Academy is closing after its first year because the charter organization lost its federal nonprofit status, and enrollment was low.
  • Manor Lake Elementary is closing to merge with nearby Geeter Middle School because low enrollment made for extra room in their buildings. The new Geeter K-8 will join eight others in the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone, a neighborhood school improvement program started by Vincent Hunter, the principal of Whitehaven High School.

School Closings

Memphis charter school signs lease within district boundaries, allowing it to stay open

PHOTO: Jacinthia Jones
The Bartlett storefront Gateway University High School used for the 2017-18 school year.

A Memphis charter school on the brink of closure over the location of its building has signed a lease within Shelby County Schools’ boundaries.

Gateway University High School will move into Holy Nation Church of Memphis on Brownsville Road near Craigmont High School after being in a Memphis suburb since opening in August 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the charter school.

In response, Shelby County Schools will pull its recommendation to revoke the school’s charter, according to the school board’s agenda. The district had called for the school’s closure because of a new state law that prohibits charter schools operating outside of the authorizing district’s limits.

The Tennessee Department of Education gave school leaders until July 1 to comply with an attorney general’s opinion issued in September and to comply with the school’s contract that stated it would operate “within the local school district of Shelby County, Tennessee.” Their previous building was a storefront in Bartlett.

The board was set to vote on the matter Tuesday — five days before the state’s deadline.