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IPS board approves plan to help keep Arlington High School open

Arlington High School is one of three schools the administration recommends closing
Arlington High School is one of three schools the administration recommends closing
Scott Elliott

Arlington High School will stay open this year as the result of an agreement approved tonight by the Indianapolis Public Schools Board.

The school was taken from IPS in 2012 and handed off to a charter school network to be run under contract. But now Tindley Accelerated Schools says it can no longer afford to operate the school.

Board members approved a plan that involves IPS taking over ground maintenance, sports field maintenance, and snow removal at the 380,000-square-foot Arlington High School on Indianapolis’ Northeast side. Tindley previously was responsible for those costs, which IPS estimates are about $250,000 annually.

The school was one of five Indiana schools taken over by the state in 2012 after six straight years of failing grades and poor student performance.

State education officials were confronted this month at a public board meeting with the news that Tindley was considering ending its contract to run Arlington because of a projected $1 million budget shortfall, which the operator says is the result of Arlington’s steep enrollment drop in recent years, and declining funding.

While state officials, IPS, and Tindley hurriedly met to work out a solution for the 2014-15 year, uncertainty about Arlington’s future spurred bigger questions about whether state takeover is really helping Indiana’s low-performing schools.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he is relieved to have Arlington’s fate for the 2014-15 school year worked out before the first day of school, less than two weeks from now.

“We feel really good about having an opportunity to ensure there’s not a disruption for the students attending Arlington,” Ferebee said. “Hopefully they know at this point that they have a school in their neighborhood.”

The district considers the resolution “cost-neutral,” Ferebee said, because IPS would have provided the services for Arlington if the school was under district control or if Tindley had pulled out and the school closed.

Ferebee said all parties are in the dark about what will happen in future years. He said IPS will be at the table, along with the Mayor Greg Ballard’s office and state education officials, to work out a solution.

Ferebee has said in the past that he wants the district to regain control over low-performing schools in which the state has intervened.

“I know that some will ask, ‘What happens next?'” Ferebee said. “I look forward to having those discussions. We’ll start talking earlier in the game about what will happen for 2015-16. Hopefully we won’t be in a situation that we’re in right now.”

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