Hundreds of students, alumni and parents packed into the Broad Ripple High School auditorium Tuesday night to speak out about plans to close the campus.
Despite the contentious topic and large crowd, the meeting was about to end early after the Indianapolis Public Schools board heard from everyone who had signed up in advance.
But when a resident pled with the board members to allow more speakers, they opened the floor to other people in the crowd.
“I know that you so badly want parental and community engagement in IPS, and IPS needs it so badly,” said MaryAnn Schlegel Ruegger, a frequent critic of the administration. “You’ve got a room full of people here who want to engage with you.”
In the end, dozens of people spoke during a public comment period that lasted about an hour and a half.
The meeting was the first since the Indianapolis Public Schools administration presented a plan last month to close three high schools. The proposal calls for closing Broad Ripple and John Marshall Middle School and converting Arlington and Northwest high schools to middle schools.
The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at John Marshall and in August at Arlington and Northwest.
Many speakers urged the board not to close the school, but others seemed resigned to its inevitability. And the meeting was not as acrimonious as some of the earlier discussions of high school closings, with many speakers focusing on their love of the school.
Here are some comments — edited for brevity and clarity — from students, parents and alumni at the meeting.
Brela Akers, student
“Why take a school that has a supportive neighborhood away from students that live in an economically depressed area? Why can’t you give us a chance to actually let our program grow? We have been to Bands of America, we have the Nutcracker, we have Sisters Act, all of that. You don’t hear about schools doing that. I hear that if you close this school down, you’re going to move us to another school, but it won’t be the Ripple spirit that we have right now in this building.”
Brooke Blakemore, alumna
“I recently graduated from Broad Ripple. I am in the first sixth grade graduating class, I have been here for a total of seven years. I have stood there and played my instrument for many years. I am going to Tuskegee University, and it is because of Broad Ripple High School. I graduated tenth in my class. I do not have a childhood like most people have when they’re going to a school such as Tuskegee, but it was Broad Ripple that made me want to go to Tuskegee.”
Katie Bacone, alumna
“I’m here as a Broad Ripple alumna, as a resident of the Broad Ripple Village Association and a lifelong resident of Broad Ripple. As an alum, I am just saddened by the shocking news. And as a resident, I am full of anxiety at the possibility of the massive change that could occur if this should happen in my neighborhood.
“Six to eight million is a lot of money, but when compared with the ramifications, I don’t see how it’s worth it. I don’t think that people fully register to them how big an upset it would be for Broad Ripple and for IPS to not only close but sell this historic building. I am echoing what a lot of people have said, I just want to voice that I’m another person who wants to keep this place open.”
Scott Jenkins, resident
“I am a resident here in Broad Ripple. I serve on the Midtown Indy board. No one runs for the school board or becomes superintendent of schools in an urban school district to close schools. I know how hard this decision is. No one wants to realign school district boundaries, this very hard decision that you all are inheriting.
“What I would say to you is that the education facility that is here has a strong set of bones and genes. Unfortunately, it is an education program less a community program. Whatever you decide and wherever you move forward, you can flip that model. You can bring this community back into the school.”
Mark Webster, alumnus
“I’m a Class of ’83 graduate of Broad Ripple High school. I’m here today because I’m optimistic that you guys may not vote it to close, but I’m also a realist here, when I look at the economics of it, it’s gonna be hard not to close it when you got $6 to $8 million looking in your face to help your budget. My concern is though, in all the meetings we’ve gone to and we’ve been at, we’ve never heard a plan to restore and keep the history and the legacy of this school. This school joined IPS in 1923 So you’re talking about 94 years of educational opportunities right in this community, 94 years of history. Please don’t just close this school and not have a plan for history, building, I could see like a museum or something like that.
“In ’78, the same people in your same position voted to close Wood High School. Wood High School has no history. You can’t find anything about Wood. We cannot allow that to go for Broad Ripple. I will not stand for it.”