Rebuilding Stronger: A break down of the proposal and what’s next for the plan

The logo for Indianapolis Public Schools. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Thursday night’s action session saw a unanimous vote with the IPS board of commissioners to pass the Rebuilding Stronger proposal. After over 40 public comments, a presentation of the final plan and commissioner comments, the district is now looking ahead to what’s next when it comes to the next phase of implementation.

IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson, IPS Chief of Staff Andrew Strope, IPS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Warren Morgan, and IPS Chief Portfolio Officer Jamie VanDeWalle have lead the presentations. Through the 2025 strategic plan, the district has a goal of improving achievement for all students, show dramatic gains for Black and Latinx students, increase graduation rates, and increase enrollment over the next 5 years.

RELATED: IPS approves Rebuilding Stronger proposal that closes some schools

Rebuilding Stronger would see grade reconfigurations of K-5 and 6-8 with the idea that it would it provide robust elementary and middle school experiences. Enrollment zones would offer choice schools vs. neighborhood schools for families. The plan would also focus on facility upgrades to renovate buildings and the closing of 7 schools, with 4 of them merging with other schools.

“Tonight is an important night for the future of our district and our commitment to ensuring more great schools with better buildings with increased offerings and access for our students,” said Dr. Johnson after the vote passed for the proposal, “While we can all recognize that change presents opportunities, it is also incredibly hard. We feel that right now and we’ve felt it deeply over the past several weeks. There were far easier paths to take than the one we did, but you challenged us to be bold. You’ve pushed us to be better at every turn and I believe we’ve done so.”

Currently: 1,471 middle school students (34.4%) have access to Band/Orchestra. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to Band/Orchestra.

Currently: 1,458 middle school students (34.1%) have access to World Language. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to World Language. 

Currently: 1,754 middle school students (41%) have access to Algebra 1. After Rebuilding Stronger: 4,264 middle school students (100%) will have access to Algebra 1. 

With the district’s plan or rezone, they said they will be able to reduce the number of student who transfer schools by 76% due to families changing their address.

Once implemented, IPS will double the number of high-demand, higher-performing seats available to students. Once implemented, 75% more students will attend a school that is “at scale.”  They are making an investment in choice schools and the expansion of academic opportunity for all students across the district. Rebuilding Stronger will also increase access to STEM by adding an estimated 2,600 STEM focused seats.

After 75 public meetings, 12 community-based meetings, distributing packets and making phones calls for outreach, the district received a lot of feedback on the original plan. As a result IPS updated aspects of the plan to better reflect the voices of parents, students, staff and community partners since October 27.

High-ability and dual-language programming at Harshman Middle School:

  • IPS will direct-manage the dual-language programming at Harshman rather than IPS charter partner Global Preparatory Academy. 
  • Dual-language and high-ability will be located at Harshman and operated as one school with two programmatic pathways. All staff at the school will be IPS employees.
  • Students who qualify for both dual-language and and high-ability will be able to access both programs

Next Steps: Merging Schools

  • Joint family meetings began this week for merging schools.
  • Selected principal conducting meet & greets, and taking parent input.
  • Begin staffing and professional development process as needed.
  • Begin operational considerations for moving students and needed materials
  • Next Steps: Building Leadership
  • Principal selection processes will begin in January 2023, specifically for new schools that are launching to allow for an extended planning timeline.
  • For schools experiencing a program change, a supplemental administrator will be identified to support the school in SY23-24 to allow for additional planning and engagement capacity.

Next Steps: Charter and Innovation Partnerships

IPS will launch their annual “Call for Innovation Applications,” in January with a specific focus on schools with a track record of success as defined by:  

  • Consistently performing near or above the state average on state assessments (ILEARN, IREAD, etc.) for all students in both proficiency and growth.
  • Consistently performing near or above the state average on state assessments (ILEARN, IREAD) for students of color in both proficiency and growth. 
  • Shows evidence of reduction in achievement gaps between students of color and white students on state assessments over time.
  • Limits student suspensions in general, and specifically does not disproportionately suspend students of color or special education students.

Potential Paramount Partnership

A number of families including those who wrote an open letter to the district about the proposal last month expressed support for IPS and Paramount to expand its partnership. The district said leaders from both organizations have been in communication over the course of recent months and are exploring possible opportunities for future partnership.

Washington Irving School 14

IPS will move forward with an innovation school partnership with the Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation for the continued operation of Washington Irving School 14.  They expect an innovation agreement to be brought before the board in early 2023.

How Rebuilding Stronger will be financed:

  • Capital and Operating referendums:
    • The operating referendum would seek to:
      • Propose a local property tax levy of no more than $0.25 on each $100 of assessed valuation.
      • If approved, effective 1/1/24, the $0.25 rate would replace the current $0.19 local property tax levy
      • Continues to support competition compensation for staff
      • Fund the enhanced student experience for all students
      • Fund the expansion and replication of academic programming across IPS
    • The capital improvement referendum would seek to:
      • Generate $410 million to fund the Rebuilding Stronger Project. 
      • Call for a local property tax levy of no more than $0.2066 per $100 of assessed valuation. 
      • Support new construction and renovations to expand and enhance the elementary and middle school experience.
      • Address critical deferred maintenance needs in some IPS-owned school facilities.

State Funding Since 2013, state tuition support has:

  • increased 6% for IPS
  • increased 21% for Indiana average
  • There is a gap between funding needed to support students who have special needs with the funding received from the state and federal government.

For the past seven years, the gap for IPS is:

  • $19 million for Special Education
  • $7 million for English Language Learners