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Herron High School is the latest addition to the IPS innovation network.

Herron High School is the latest addition to the IPS innovation network.

Scott Elliott

Sought-after charter Herron High School could be the latest to join the Indianapolis innovation network

One of the most elite public schools in Indiana is aiming to join Indianapolis Public Schools.

Herron High School, a sought-after charter school on the near north side that offers a classical liberal arts curriculum, is considering joining the IPS innovation network. As an innovation school, Herron would still have most of the independence of a charter school, but it would get access to additional funding. In turn, IPS would get credit for Herron’s test scores and other academic outcomes when the district is assessed by the state.

In a newsletter sent recently, Herron head of school Janet McNeal wrote that becoming an innovation school would not change the school.

“Becoming an Innovation Charter School will not impact students in any way,” McNeal wrote. “Our autonomy, our mission, our curriculum, and our ownership of our buildings would not change.”

Since IPS began creating innovation schools two years ago, the program has swiftly expanded. There are nine schools in the network and the district is likely to add at least four additional schools next year. Innovation schools are considered part of the district, but they are managed by outside charter networks or nonprofits, which control decisions like the curriculum, calendar and discipline. Because teachers at innovation schools are employed by the outside managers, they are not part of the district union.

Herron is the latest existing charter school to join the network: KIPP joined in 2015 and Avondale Meadows plans to open a middle school in the network next year. Still, it’s a surprising move from a school that has established its reputation as an alternative to IPS high schools since it opened more than a decade ago.

The head of school will present a proposal to the IPS board on Thursday, but the board will not vote until a later meeting. If the proposal goes through, Herron’s planned second campus, Riverside High School, would also be part of the district.

If the school joins the innovation network, it could also make it more likely that Herron will participate in Enroll Indy, a proposed unified enrollment system that aims to make it easier for families to find and apply to schools.

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