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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Countdown to the classroom: IPS welcomes students with back-to-school event

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Indianapolis Public Schools kicked off the new school year with their annual back-to-school carnival. Students and their families were invited to attend at two locations throughout the day: Arlington Middle School and Northwest Middle School.

Every school-aged child was greeted with a backpack filled with essential school supplies, along with valuable IPS back-to-school information.

In addition, local community partners provided resources and exciting giveaways.

RELATED: IPS unveils new leadership under Rebuilding Stronger Plan

Countdown to the classroom: IPS welcomes students with back-to-school event
Backpacks were distributed for students at the IPS Back to School Carnival. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

“About 65% of our families qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. When they have the opportunity to have support from our district to take care of some of those things, that just helps to relieve some of the pressure our families experience,” said Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson.

Immunizations were also available for families. If families did not have insurance, immunizations were $10. Northwest Middle School offered sports physicals exclusively for students in need of them.

They wanted the event to be a gateway to a successful academic year filled with learning, growth and endless possibilities.

IPS Back-to-school carnival

This comes with district changes behind the Rebuilding Strong plan.

Some of the changes for this upcoming year include new leadership in certain schools, some buildings closing and students moving based on new education models.

“We’re really excited about the year ahead. Last year brought announcements of a lot of changes. This year we’ll be planning for more changes to be happening in the next school year. We’re using that momentum to make sure that we’re supporting children and families,” said Johnson.

Countdown to the classroom: IPS welcomes students with back-to-school event
Shay Hall pictured with the children she came to the event to gather supplies and resources with. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

“It’s pretty convenient and pretty cool for those who are looking for assistance with schooling or back to school things for their kids. The food and stuff are good for people while they’re out here getting school supplies for their kids,” said parent Shay Hall.

Hall gathered school supplies with her children, nieces and nephews.

While the back-to-school carnival received praise, not a lot of parents were receptive to the changes enacted by the Rebuilding Stronger Plan.

IPS Rebuilding Stronger

Shannon is a parent who does not approve of the reconfiguration of k-5, which makes sixth through eighth grades their own stand-alone model.

She worries about how her daughter will adjust to the new model.

Johnson said to help ease students into this new transition, they are still implementing their Freshman Summer Bridge Program. Incoming ninth-graders begin two weeks ahead of other classes to better understand high school.

For families that are transitioning to new schools, there have been Meet-the-Principal opportunities.

Countdown to the classroom: IPS welcomes students with back-to-school event
Food was offered to students and their families after they received other items and resources. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Some schools are also doing beautification projects and inviting families to view schools before the year starts at smaller events, like ice cream socials.

Upcoming school year

RELATED: New adult high school set to open on the southeast side

“It’s critically important. We know relationships are at the heart of everything we do in our schools. When families and students feel connected, and engaged, and valued in our schools, that goes a long way,” said Johnson.

The Rebuilding Stronger Plan has checked their to-do list with some things still in the works, according to Johnson.

In May, the school board approved re-use for all their buildings except Raymond F Brandes School 65 and Francis Bellamy School 102.

The volunteers at the IPS Back-to-School Carnival were educators. Teacher retention has also been a part of the district’s continuous goals for progress, according to Johnson.

Through their Proving What’s Possible Program that launched a year ago, she said they have established higher retention post-pandemic than pre-pandemic.

“We saw a gap in the retention of our teachers of color than our white teachers. We’ve actually closed that gap. We’re retaining about 85% of our teachers in the district. We’re an outlier from the national narrative,” said Johnson.

IPS students return to school July 31.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email jadej@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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