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IPS to meet with families on plan to close, merge schools, reconfigure grade levels

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — ​A day after a speech on a plan to change Indianapolis Public Schools, the superintendent said the district’s board wants feedback.

Aleesia Johnson on Tuesday unveiled what’s called the Rebuilding Stronger plan. If finalized in November, the plan would make changes that include reducing the number of small schools and poor facilities, and reconfiguring facilities into kindergarten-Grade 5 elementaries and grades 6-8 middle schools.

Before Tuesday, parents had already been discussing what the plan would mean for students and families when it takes effect after the 2022-2023 school year. 

On Wednesday, Johnson said in she’s confident in the plan.

The closings would happen at Francis Bellamy Pre-K Center and Step Ahead Program, 9501 E. 36th Place; George Buck School 94, 2701 N. Devon Ave.; Floro Torrence School 83: 5050 42nd St., and Raymond F Brandes Elementary School, 4065 Asbury St.

These schools would close and merge with other schools: Frances Parker School 56, 2353 Columbia Ave.; the Center for Inquiry-Benjamin Harrison School 2, 725 N. New Jersey St.; and Paul I. Miller School 114, 2251 Sloan Ave. 

The school’s changeable sign on outside Floro Torrence reads: “IPS Rebuilding Stronger | Parent Meeting | Sept 14 at 6:00.”

Parent Aleanya Moore told News 8, “I know there’s a lot of frustration. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of confusion. As parents, I’m a parent myself, you make sacrifices to do the things that you want to do.”

Moore says some disconnects exist between the district and parents. In having discussions, she’s encouraging the district’s leader to get more involved and to be a part proactively.

After checking out parts of the proposal herself, she says, she can see where the district is coming from with its vision. Still, she would like more opportunities for the board to reach those parents who may have a harder time communicating their wants and needs for their children.

“I do think that there’s not a lot of ‘meeting the parents’ where they are although they are decision makers. They are the people that are making those important decisions for families. Find out creative ways to engage those parents and get their input,” Moore said.

The superintendent said Wednesday that  over the course of the next 6 to 8 weeks, the district leaders will have open meetings to engage conversations for feedback. 

What’s in the plan

The full plan outlines the district’s course over five years. 

It would reconfigure grades into a kindergarten-Grade 5 and grades 6-8 system for the 2024-2025 school year.

Enrollment zones would be categorized into four areas to give families more options to choose where their children go to school vs. having them forced to attend a neighborhood school.

With renovations and upgrades to a lot of buildings, the overall goal is to offer more programming and opportunities for all IPS students. 

Johnson said, “We have to make some hard decisions to align our resources in a different way.” 

With teachers and staff also being affected by what would be consolidations in the coming school year, Johnson says, the district’s retention plan amid a teacher shortage would be to give impacted staff $10,000. Impacted principals would get $12,000. Principals at schools closing down for good would be given $20,000.

A survey was sent out Wednesday for educators to give feedback on what would be next after the school year. 

“Their preferences, their current licensure area, if there’s a geographic part of the district they’d be interested in,” Johnson said. 

The board will made a final decision on the plan in November.