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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Board member speaks on IPS school closures

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There are hard, important decisions ahead for IPS.  In September, the Board of School Commissioners will vote on the administration’s recommendation to close Arlington, Broad Ripple and Northwest high schools. 

While I agree, there is a need to close schools, my desire is that Arlington High School remain open.  When I ran for the District 2 Seat on the IPS Board of Commissioners, I presented my qualifications and commitment to voters. As an Arlington High School Alumni I come from three generations of IPS graduates. I live walking distance from Arlington High School and have lived on the eastside of Indianapolis most of my life. The current recommendation is to close all schools in the periphery, and keep the four remaining high schools centrally located in the core of the city.

As I consider this proposal, I am looking not just at the specific schools in question, but the district as a whole. If all our high schools are near the core of the city, what happens to the communities in the periphery?  While centralizing all the high schools may reduce some transportation costs, this also means there would be large portions of the district that would go without a school nearby.  But what about the negative effects of this decision?

I grew up on 28th and Sangster, minutes away from the Juvenile Detention Center, and a short walk from what used to be school 110. I grew up the oldest of three, and after a middle school game we walked home from the opposite side of town. To get home we had to cross the tracks to enter into our part of the city. I’ll never forget we were badgered by the children from the rival school, called names, and incited to a fight. All I could think was, we just have to cross the tracks. Those tracks were symbolic in that moment. In that moment, we would be safe. Granted this was some 40 years ago, but do we honestly think those same tracks don’t exist among our students today?

What happens when we take resources out of our surrounding community and pour it into a central area? What happens when these outlying communities and youth began to see their communities as deserts, with no opportunity, and no resources? Will students transfer to schools at or other locations, or resort to schools with better reputations that are closer by?

What happens when you remove those tracks?  These are the real questions, rather we want to admit them, or not. These questions are what the people are thinking. It is true some of our schools are only 1/3 full. That presents several concerns, including the cost of operating a building that is not full, and security concerns over having that much empty space to secure. 

The questions are not whether schools should be closed, it is what schools should we close and is centralization of our remaining schools the right decision? I want to make sure we are considering options for the future as well as today. Could some schools become middle schools or share space and costs with other community organizations? Will we regret letting go of schools if we must find new space in the future?

I want every IPS student to have access to an excellent education. In fact, the mission of IPS is “to prepare and empower all students for life.” But to do that we must have accountability, and if we are voting to close these schools, we need plans before closure to invest in the communities where our schools used to reside. We need to show these communities that we will continue to empower, enlighten, and invest in our students’ future. Although our buildings may not be there, our presence will be felt.  

Before I decide about closing any school I want input from those I represent. I am open to alternative proposals, I am open to your opinions and thoughts, and will do my best to make a sound judgement. Let me be clear I agree there is a need to close schools. The debate however, is which schools should be closed.  My desire is that Arlington High School remain open. Please contact me I represented you.  Before I was elected I wanted more for IPS and now I will fight to ensure IPS has more!

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