There was little sign of interest from the community at a public forum Thursday about closing John Marshall Middle School. Fewer than 20 people filled the seats of the auditorium of the beleaguered school, and the meeting ended less than seven minutes after it began.
“Seeing no one here, I think we are going to go ahead and adjoin to our regular business meeting,” said Indianapolis Public Schools board President Mary Ann Sullivan.
The board typically requires people to sign up to speak in advance, but for the second meeting in a row, Sullivan opened the floor to anyone.
There was just one speaker: Jerry Coverstone, who ran an unsuccessful independent campaign for state senate in 2016. Coverstone, who grew up in the neighborhood but attended a township high school, focused on Indiana’s private school voucher program.
“I look and see how the school voucher program is providing tax-funded money to private, religious-based schools, and then I turn around and I see our public schools closing down,” Coverstone said. “That bothers me.”
The meeting was one of several public forums the board is holding about a proposal to close Marshall and Broad Ripple High School and convert two other high schools to middle schools. The district voted last summer to convert Marshall, which had served grades 7-12, to a dedicated middle school this year. If the board approves the plan to close the school, the students will relocate to the Arlington campus.
The board will hold forums at 5:30 p.m. August 29 at Arlington High School and August 31 at Northwest High School.
One other commenter, Nathan Harris, arrived after the public forum ended but spoke during the regular board meeting. Harris, who graduated from Arsenal Technical High School, also spoke Tuesday at the meeting at Broad Ripple High School. That meeting drew close to 200 people and lasted about an hour and half, in stark contrast with the forum at Marshall.
Sullivan speculated that the meeting may have been smaller because the campus is already scheduled to convert to a middle school.
“It makes me sad,” she said. “I would like to think that all of our schools have been special places for someone.”