Purdue Polytechnic drops bid for Broad Ripple High School

Purdue Polytechnic High School announced Friday that it is no longer interested in Broad Ripple High School for its second campus. The move comes after weeks of political wrangling between the charter school and Indianapolis Public Schools leaders.

The charter school had informally expressed interest in leasing the building long-term with Indianapolis Classical Schools, the network that manages Herron High School for up to $8 million. But Purdue will look for another site because the district’s timeline for leasing or selling the property is expected to take more than a year, according to a statement released by Head of School Scott Bess. Purdue expects to open its second campus in 2019.

“While there was a vocal desire within the Broad Ripple community for Purdue Polytechnic to make use of the recently closed Broad Ripple High School facility, the timing of the recently announced process by Indianapolis Public Schools to consider potential tenants for the building did not match the necessary timeframe for Purdue Polytechnic,” the statement said. “For a successful opening next summer, it is critical for our second school to build relationships with our new neighbors and the surrounding community this fall.”

The future of the campus is uncertain. The decision could put an end to pressure on the district from neighborhood residents and local leaders advocating for Purdue Polytechnic to take over the closed school. But those supporters are likely to remain vocal as the district evaluates what do with the property, which is in a popular neighborhood with high property values.

Broad Ripple was one of three high schools closed at the end of last year as part of a high school reconfiguration plan.

Indianapolis Public Schools, which is struggling with an ongoing deficit, is hoping to raise significant funds from the sale of Broad Ripple. But its options for selling the property are limited by a state law that requires school districts to make vacant buildings available to charter schools for $1 before selling them on the open market.

The district, however, is considering an alternative that officials say is allowed under state law. Last week, Indianapolis Public Schools released a request for proposals from nonprofits interested in leasing some or all of the building, including charter schools.

That’s the beginning of sale process that’s expected to last about 15 months, culminating in a decision in September 2019. District leaders said they wanted to run a public process for determining the best use for the building.

In a statement Saturday, Indianapolis Public Schools said it valued its relationship with Purdue Polytechnic High School, which is a charter school in the innovation network under the umbrella of the district.

“We respect their decision to continue their search for a second location, and we look forward to learning more about their expansion plans in the future,” the statement continued.

District leaders unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to make an exception to the $1 law earlier this year, in the hopes of selling Broad Ripple. Since then, key lawmakers have lined up in support of Purdue’s bid for the property, and it could be even harder for the district to win support for a legislative change next year.

Update: September 1, 2018: This story has been updated to include a comment from Indianapolis Public Schools.