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Mayor’s charter school stable to grow again next year

Tindley Renaissance, new mayor-sponsored charter school, opened this fall. (Alan Petersime)

Tindley Renaissance, new mayor-sponsored charter school, opened this fall. (Alan Petersime)

Tajuana Cheshier

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s ambitious plans to expand his growing charter school portfolio took another step forward last week, as he announced plans to add at least two new schools under his umbrella.

Ballard, who sponsored five new schools that opened this year, expects six already approved schools to open next year. Ballard currently sponsors 31 charter schools, along with monitoring four Indianapolis Public Schools in state takeover, for a total enrollment of about 16,000 students. Next year, he expects to be overseeing 42 schools with about 18,000 students, which would mean the schools Ballard leads would have a greater combined enrollment than 10 of the 11 school districts in the city, second only to Indianapolis Public Schools.

That’s also almost double the 22 schools that were under the mayor’s control in 2012.

Ballard announced the expansion strategy last year when he has partnered with The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based non-profit that advocates for school choice and other education changes, to create a charter school incubator aimed at attracting high-quality charter school operators to come to, or expand in, the city. Ballard has estimated the effort could seed 20 new charter schools over five years.

The new school approved last week will be called Founders Classical Academy and represents the first foray into Indianapolis by Responsive Education Solutions, one of the largest operators of charter schools in Texas. The group is also working toward opening a drop out recovery high school in the city.

The Lewisville, Texas, non-profit operates more than 60 schools in Texas and Arkansas. It has two other “classical” schools rooted in ancient Greek and Roman educational principles that focus on grammar, classic texts, art and study of language. The school opening next fall in Indianapolis will serve 350 students in grades K to 8 and be located in the midtown area.

The Indiana Math & Science Academy West opened on West 38th Street in 2007.

The Indiana Math & Science Academy West opened on West 38th Street in 2007.

The other move Ballard announced Friday was a change in sponsor, also sometimes called authorizer. The Indiana Science & Math Academy West was approved for a new charter with the mayor’s office and will end its relationship with current sponsor Ball State University.

“Nothing is more important to the strength of our neighborhoods than the quality of our schools,” Ballard said in a statement. “We are pleased that IMSA West will continue to serve students and families on the west side while Founders Classical Academy will provide a new option for families in the Midtown area.”

One of the most successful Indianapolis charter schools, ISMA West, at 4575 W. 38th St., opened in 2007 and has been rated an A three out of the last four years by the state. The school has 600 students in grades K to 12. It is part of the Concept Schools charter network based in Chicago that runs about 20 schools in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.

Concept is expanding its operation in Indiana. Its second Indianapolis school, ISMA North, opened 2010 on Keystone Avenue. It earned an A and B the past two years. This fall, Concept opened a third school on Bethel Avenue on Indianapolis’ south side.

Deputy Mayor for Education Jason Kloth said Ballard’s office worked with Ball State to consolidate three ISMA Indianapolis schools under one sponsor.

“The IMSA West board thought it made sense to have all three schools under one authorizer to streamline oversight and accountability processes,” he said. “Our office has been in close contact with Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools, and they are supportive of the transfer.”

The charter incubator has helped fuel expansion of mayor-sponsored charters, supporting the creation of new schools by three charter networks — Christel House, KIPP and EdPower, which operates the Tindley charter schools.

New mayor-sponsored charter schools that opened this year include:

  • Goodwill Industries’ Excel Centers for high school dropouts added a sixth Indianapolis location at the Lafayette Square Mall.
  • Enlace Academy, which is that it is affiliated with Cathedral High School, is sharing space with an IPS’ Gambold Prep Middle School. It serves grades K to 3 with plans to expand to K to 8 by one grade a year.
  • Tindley Renaissance, an elementary school affiliated with the neighboring Tindley Accelerated School for middle and high school students, opened this fall in the Meadows.
  • Tindley Collegiate, a girls-only middle school.

Coming next year along with Founders Classical Academy will be:

  • Two new Tindley elementary schools on the city’s far eastside.
  • A new KIPP elementary school on the far eastside.
  • Christel House West, an elementary school on the former Central State Hospital campus.
  • Visions Academy, a new elementary school run by the Challenge Foundation on the near westside.