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Perry Township Schools holds special session to hear concerned parents on redistricting proposal

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Perry Township parents voiced their concerns about a district proposal to offset school bus driver recruitment and retention issues by redistricting. The school board announced the special session after parents raised concerns about not having adequate time to review the proposal and provide feedback ahead of the planned Dec. 12 vote.

Over a dozen parents and families signed up to speak like Perry Township Schools father, Nathan Formo.

“Packing buses with extra students is just going to make more drivers quit and we will be back here in another year doing the same thing,” Formo said.

The proposed plan would impact thousands of Perry Township children by potentially changing elementary school boundaries and eliminating the district’s School Choice program.

“Districts nationwide are struggling with driver shortages, resulting in long and late bus routes. Ours is no different,” says Jeremiah Gray Elementary PTA President Samantha Kirk. “Those are valid personnel and student concerns. However, this plan would uproot thousands of children still reeling from the pandemic and eliminate our valuable School Choice program as trade-offs to potentially ease, but not solve, the district’s failed recruitment and retention efforts.”

Kirk adds that parents districtwide have not been effectively engaged during this process. She said there has been a startling lack of communication from the district with many families only now learning about this proposal, days before its scheduled vote.

Perry Township Schools assistant superintendent Chris Sampson said they have actively reached out to families in the district.

“We spoke to this at two school board meetings at the beginning of this school year. We’ve also held two open forums throughout the fall. We’ve also met with folks individually, but also have responded to a countless number of emails to try to inform folks and answer any questions that they have. We also put it on our website,” Sampson said.

Perry Township Schools originally presented these four options:

  • Model 1: Establish new elementary school boundaries, end the Perry Township School Choice program, and require all students to attend their newly assigned schools.
  • Model 2: Establish new elementary school boundaries, end the Perry Township School Choice program, and allow Intra-District Transfers based on annual school and grade-level capacity. All transfer students must provide their own transportation.
  • Model 3: Keep current boundaries for all elementary schools, continue Perry Township School Choice program, but end bus transportation for School Choice students.
  • Model 4: Establish new elementary school boundaries, end the current Perry Township School Choice program, but allow limited School Choice within smaller zones based on kindergarten academies. All School Choice students must provide their own transportation.

“So, we’re looking at three. One being that we would not make any changes and just try to you know get through the situation as is, as it is now,” Sampson said.

“At the meeting last week, at the work session meeting, they pretty much narrowed it down to option model 1 and model 2. Model 3, they didn’t say was conducive and that was the option that most parents, including myself was trying to aim for,” Kirk said.

With the topic being on bus drivers being the root cause of the redistricting proposal, many parents compared the district to IPS and suggested paying higher wages to attain and retain drivers.

Even children like Lyla Wells spoke after her parents did on what the impact of redistricting change would mean for her.

“I had to leave pre-school because of COVID. I did not get to say goodbye to my friends. I do not want to do that again. I want you to let me stay at my school because I like it and it’s very good,” Wells said.

The final vote on the matter will be Monday, Dec. 12.