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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — La Tosha Walker is on a mission to make sure her son with autism is getting the education he deserves in Indianapolis Public Schools.

She shared a report from an Indiana Department of Education’s investigation with I-Team 8. The report showed her son missed out on 5,242 instructional minutes in 2022.

Her son Tyrese Walker is enjoying the first days of summer break, but his fifth-grade year was not enjoyable in part because of what happened.

The Department of Education investigation found that Tyrese’s teachers at Edison School of the Arts removed him from class 114 times over 71 days of school.

La Tosha said, “Most of the list says, ‘talking,’ ‘class disruption.’ Those are daily activities that go on in school.”

When Tyrese was taken out of class he was taken to a room in the guidance learning center. “In GLC, you do nothing but sit there and whatever they have you do, but he’s not getting his work, so those are minutes of his education that he’s not receiving,” La Tosha said.

La Tosha told I-Team 8 her son being taken out of class violated his individualized education plan because he has autism. “My son’s autism is sensory, so, with that sensory, sometimes the room could be too loud. It could be too much going on and then it just overstimulates him, so what comes out as being a disruption to some people may be just something he’s trying to work through.”

Walker has a binder full of documents related to her fight to make sure her son is getting the education he deserves. It included the eight-page report from the investigation by the Department of Education.

The report said that her son’s “IEP did make some provision for removal to the GLC, the numbers of such removals and time the student was removed from instruction services was excessive, leading to a denial of free appropriate public education (FAPE).”

The Department of Education told I-Team 8 the report is not finalized. Both sides involved have a chance to ask for reconsideration.

La Tosha acknowledged to I-Team 8 that her son is not perfect, but said that should not prevent him from getting his education. “If my son is doing something and he needs some discipline, send him, but send him with his work. They’re not sending him with work.”

La Tosha suggested any parent with a special needs child should brush up on Article 7, the IPS special education rules, so they can stick up for their kids’ education. “Article 7 is there to back the parents up. You just have to take the time to read it, or find somebody that can help you. We’ve got to start holding these schools accountable for the services our children are supposed to have.”

Walker told I-Team 8 she’s working with IPS on the plan to get her son the 5,242 minutes of education he missed last year.

I-Team 8 reached out to IPS via email and phone for a comment about this situation, but it did not respond by Tuesday afternoon

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Officials with Indianapolis Public Schools on Monday night explained their decision to reopen classrooms.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson was joined by Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department.

“We feel it’s OK for schools to reopen based on the current data that we have today,” Caine said.

The town hall came on the same day Washington Township Schools announced that north-side district will begin the year only with online instruction.

IPS announced its plans last week to teach students both in the classroom and online. Johnson said having an in-person option is best for the families the district serves, at least for now.

“At the end of the day, it is Black and brown communities who face and carry the burden of that decision on either side,” Johnson said.

She acknowledged the decision is difficult: either open school buildings with the risk of coronavirus or keep them closed forcing tough choices for working parents and homes without the internet.

“Our decisions won’t be perfect,” Johnson said. “Certainly not everyone will be in agreement with every decision that we make, that is to be expected.”

Johnson said a survey of more than 4,000 parents found one-third preferred classroom learning, one-third preferred virtual and one-third were unsure.

Caine pointed out that IPS was among the first in Indiana to close its doors at the beginning of the pandemic, but said science and data shows that things are much safer now than they were months ago, lending to her support of the IPS decision.

She referenced several data points, including the number of cases, which peaked in April at more than 300 a week. That tally is now down to around 60 a week. The rate of positive tests, which was 45 percent, is down to 7 percent. She also noted there are usually zero or a single death each day attributed to the virus.

“We have done honestly a phenomenal job of having our cases reduced since the peak,” Caine said.

Johnson responded Monday to questions about social distancing in the classroom and on buses, the likely process if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, and the amount of personal protective equipment.

“I feel good about where we are right now in terms of PPE, masks. We’ve ordered lots and lots of hand sanitizer,” Johnson said.

But, like everything else, everything is subject to change even in the next three weeks before IPS is scheduled to begin on Aug. 3.

“If data points us in a direction that says we need to do something different than what we’re currently doing or planning to do, we will not hesitate to respond to that,” Johnson said.

Johnson asked parents for several things — including to daily checks before school of your child’s symptoms and keeping contact information up to date — so if someone tests positive, the school district can let parents know.

The district will be in touch with the health department for each positive test, and the department will help determine who needs to quarantine.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s official: Indianapolis Public Schools teachers are getting raises. 

The school board voted Thursday night to raise teacher salaries. 

Raises will be from 3 percent to 9 percent depending on each teacher’s performance record and time spent with IPS. On average, it’s a $2,500 payout. 

But, the raises are too little too late for Angela Tipton, an eighth-grade teacher who left IPS two years ago for a similar job at a township district. 

“I’m happy for people. More money is more money. But, the comparison of what I got to leave the district was over a 20 percent increase,” Tipton said. “It’s not even comparable.”

IPS leaders said the salaries and benefits are a $5.2 million investment negotiated with the Indianapolis Education Association. Union representatives praised IPS after the decision. 

The district can afford the raises, in part, because taxpayers voted in November to give the school more than $270 million.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, who is soon leaving the district to head the schools in Washington, D.C., said, “We would love to do more. We’re committed to doing more but we can only move at the pace of the resources we have.”

IPS teachers earned 2 percent raises in each of the past two years. Thursday’s decision marked the biggest boost for IPS teachers since 2015, when some teachers earned 12 percent raises. 

“We will look forward to learning more about what the financial landscape will be for state funding and other resources that will allow us to bolster teacher compensation over the next couple years,” Ferebee said. 

Ferebee said the interim superintendent, Aleesia Johnson, looks forward to negotiating future deals with the union. 

Two parents spoke in support of the raises at the board meeting. 

The raises are a one-year deal for the current school year, meaning some teachers will earn a lump sum payment for the past semester. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Voters on Thursday night had a chance to ask questions and learn the details of a proposed property tax hike to help Indianapolis Public Schools. 

Two referendums will be on ballots on Election Day, Nov. 6. 

IPS is asking for $272 million from property taxpayers in the IPS district. The money would go to safer schools, competitive teacher salaries with benefits, and stronger learning programs, according to IPS. 

Robert Vane is the lead consultant for the Vote Yes For IPS PAC. 

“We want your questions. We want your feedback and we want you concerns,” Vane said. “I have heard really good questions at every forum I’ve been to and so all these forums are worth while. They’re worth peoples’ time which is why the superintendent has pledged to do them.”

Vane said the Thursday night forum was to break down how the plan could change your taxes based on your property value. 

Someone with a home worth $75,000 would pay about $3.19 cents more per month. The owner of a $1 million home would pay about $125 more.

Jim Scheurich, an Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis education professor who dropped out of the school board race due to an injury, said that he “fully expects people to vote it down.”

Depsite the forums, Scheurich said he’s not satisfied with the district’s transparency. He is also a part of a group called the IPS Community Coalition. 

“We’ve talked to the superintendent. We’ve sent in the questions. For the most part we’re not getting answers to the questions,” Scheurich said. 

Scheurich said one of his questions is how much more would teachers make if the plan passes? 

Vane said it’s too early to say and collective bargaining will determine salaries. 

“The support for IPS teachers is very strong and IPS is committed to helping teachers stay in the district,” Vane said. 

The Vote Yes For IPS PAC said the district has struggled through funding cuts over the past decade and, if the vote fails, the district could forced to lay off hundreds of teachers. 

Another public forum will be 6 p.m. Oct. 18 at Southeast Community Services, 901 Shelby St.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools on Friday provided new information about the future of two former IPS high schools. 

The district said it had begun accepting ‘request for lease’ proposals for John Marshall and Broad Ripple high schools.

The two schools were closed after the 2017-2018 school year when the district restructured to save money. 

A district spokesperson on Friday said any eligible nonprofit with a civic or public purpose can participate in the process — that includes charter schools and other community-based organizations.

All submissions are due Oct. 11.

The district said its board of commissioners hopes to make a final decision on the properties by the summer of 2019. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Thousands of images and documents covering more than 150 years of the history of Indianapolis Public Schools were released on Friday as part of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Digital Indy collection. 

The materials, which date back to 1853, include newsletters, yearbooks, board meeting minutes and scrapbooks and staff biographies, as well as photos of students and school staff. 

Among the collection are more than 10,000 issues of Shortridge High School’s Daily Echo newspaper, where former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. both wrote and served as editors.

The project was completed with the help of a $1.8 million grant from Lilly Endowment. 

Click here to see the digital archive. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools is hosting two community meetings on plans to dig the district out of their financial troubles. The first, called a “community conversation” by the district, started at 6 p.m. Monday.  

The district aims to discuss potential cost-cutting changes with parents and stakeholders. 

One topic of discussion: a plan proposed by the Indy Chamber last week that recommends reducing IPS teaching staff by 12 percent by not replacing every teacher who leaves. The plan also suggests eliminating buses for high schoolers and raising property taxes. 

The goal is to take care of the district’s $319 million deficit over the next eight years. 

“I would like to see more teachers,” IPS mom Kimberly Crowe said. “I think that will get the kids more under control.”

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the district is not sold on all of the chamber proposals. He said he wants to talk to the district’s stakeholders about the ideas. 

“For example, we have not had conversations with high school parents and whether or not IndyGo would be the primary solution for families and if that would be suitable,” Ferebee said. 

IPS said Monday’s meeting will touch on Indy Chamber proposals and other ideas to address financial needs. 

IPS referenda will be on the ballot this November. 

“I think there will be a balance between what the business community has asked us and the chamber has reported to do in terms of reduction and what we believe is realistic,” Ferebee said. 

The next meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at IPS headquarters. 

The school board will hold a public hearing and is expected to vote on a dollar amount for a referendum. 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – There are two more meetings about an operating referendum for Indianapolis Public Schools.

Those meetings are scheduled to happen Monday and Tuesday evening.

IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee stopped by Daybreak Monday.

He talked about the capital referendum and how to make your voice and opinion heard on the matter.

For more on this story, click on the video.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools officials are considering offering new sports in addition to what’s customary at the district’s schools, as an effort to increase student participation in athletics.

Jamal Smith, IPS district athletic director, believes more sports involvement at the grade school level could provide a solution to several problems IPS and other school districts face.

“Higher participation in sports increases graduation rates, GPAs go up, attendance goes up, dropout rates go down,” said Smith. ” Some research even points to teenage pregnancy decreasing, kids experimenting with drugs and alcohol, that decreases.”

Smith is preparing to send out online surveys to students and parents to gauge their interest in several sports that might be off the beaten track.

“We did a preliminary survey, and some of the sports that popped out were boxing and rugby and lacrosse and gymnastics,” he said.

IPS isn’t prepared to roll out new sporting programs just yet. Smith says they want to ensure they have the student interest and also explore their options for bringing on new coaches, re-purposing existing facilities and funding uniforms and equipment.

Just last year, IPS closed three high schools and one middle school to save about $7 million in a belt-tightening budget move. Smith says while he wasn’t planning to expand IPS Athletics before the consolidation, it’s more feasible to add new sports options to four high schools instead of seven.

“With the sheer consolidation, you’re going to have more students in a consolidated space, so you get more participation and a more competitive atmosphere, which we’re looking forward to,” he said.

Smith says if students show interest, the district will make it happen, including partnering with universities, renting out their facilities for extra money and working with corporate partnerships.

“By pure definition of us being an inner-city school district, that’s one thing we do have in our favor is we’re in the inner city. So it’s location, location, location,” Smith said.

New sports may take months or years to develop at IPS and will most likely begin as club or intramural sports that could become varsity athletic opportunities. Smith says this initiative should also reach the K-8 grades in the form of club sports, which could become feeder teams for the high school varsity versions.

If you want to support the district’s initiative, IPS is hiring coaches for their fall and winter traditional sports. Learn more here.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools’ superintendent is explaining why he believes the district needs a near billion dollar tax over eight years.

In the proposal, $92 million every year for eight years would go to teacher raises, expanding school programs and support for special needs students.

Another $200 million would go to renovating buildings and upgrading classroom technology. That adds up to $936 million.

The cost for you depends on your home’s property value. It would be about a $350 increase for a home valued at $123,000.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said it’s an investment in the future of Indianapolis.

You have a lot of time to mull things over. It will be on the ballot as a referendum in the May 2018 election. He said IPS needs to become more competitive in keeping its teachers.

Ferebee says it can be tough to keep teachers at this time because of salaries in surrounding districts. This plan would give teachers a two percent raise.

He said there are also buildings in desperate need of repairs and safety improvements with new lighting.

Parents have expressed mixed reactions on social media to the proposal.

Ferebee said he looks at it as a dollar a day to improve education for the typical family.

“We believe that’s a smart investment, particularly with the capital improvements. If we don’t make those improvements now, it will cost more later,” he said. “If we don’t have quality educators, we aren’t able to deliver the best education. If we aren’t able to deliver the best education for our students and families, I believe we will be challenged with other issues down the road.”

A few parents on Facebook asked if the IPS administration would take pay cuts to help fund these expenses. Ferebee said they haven’t had substantial increases to their salaries in some time but that they’re considering all options.

Ferebee said he’s not concerned about more families leaving due to higher taxes, even though declining enrollment has been a problem in the past.

You can voice your opinion at two public hearings in December. They will both be at 6 p.m. — on Dec. 12 and Dec. 14 at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services, which is located at 120 E. Walnut St. in Indianapolis.