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In revised Rebuilding Stronger plan, IPS shelves plan to close Center for Inquiry at School 2

The facade of the Indianapolis Public Schools building, with a street and building in the background.

Indianapolis Public Schools has made several substantial changes to its original Rebuilding Stronger draft plan. The IPS board is now scheduled to vote on the plan on Nov. 17.

Hayleigh Colombo / Chalkbeat

Indianapolis Public Schools officials made major changes to the draft Rebuilding Strong plan by walking back proposals to close the Center for Inquiry at School 2 and demolish Francis Parker Montessori School 56, according to their Thursday presentation to the school board. 

Under the initial plan released last month, officials proposed merging the Center for Inquiry at School 2 — a popular choice program located near downtown — with Washington Irving School 14 just 1.5 miles away. Urban Act Academy, a charter school in School 14 that is given more autonomy than traditional district schools as part of the district’s innovation network, still faces non-renewal of its innovation agreement with the district. 

However, the revised version does not alter the original Rebuilding Stronger’s plan to reduce the grade spans of both CFI 2 and School 14 from K-8 to K-5, beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

The historic Francis Parker Montessori School 56 building, meanwhile, would not be demolished to make way for a new space for Sidener Academy for High Ability Students, the revised plan states. Instead, Sidener’s new building would instead be built on the site of Joyce Kilmer School 69, which is currently unused.

School 56 students, however, would still merge with James Russell School 51, which would in turn adopt Montessori programming in the 2023-24 school year. 

The changes were among dozens outlined as part of the final draft of the plan, which the IPS school board is now slated to consider for a vote on Nov. 17. 

Another significant change: Special education parents, who have shared concerns and questions about where their children’s new special education programs would be located, can now access a list the district has shared here under the revised plan.

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The updated plan for the district’s massive overhaul comes after officials spent weeks garnering public input in a series of community and school meetings throughout the district. 

The Rebuilding Stronger reorganization is the district’s attempt to address a number of its longstanding issues — the district’s enrollment has declined as charter schools have expanded, leaving emptier school buildings. The plan also tries to bring specialized academic programs, such as International Baccalaureate and Montessori, to more students of color.

The district hopes to ask voters for $810 million in new tax revenue to fund the plan through two ballot questions in May 2023. 

Below are several other notable revisions to Rebuilding Stronger that officials unveiled Thursday.

Transportation policy changes focus on flexibility

Under the initial plan, students attending a school that is outside of their zone would have been given one more year of transportation before becoming ineligible for transportation.

But under the revised plan, the district would update its appeals process to possibly extend eligibility for families that are outside of their school’s zone. 

The district would also revise its transportation policy to give greater transportation flexibility for students in choice programs. The policy could allow students who meet certain criteria — such as those who live close to a bus stop — to walk across zone lines and continue receiving transportation to their choice school. 

Middle school lottery priority

Middle school students affected by school closures would get enhanced lottery priority when choosing a new school for both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. 

Default neighborhood schools assigned

Families expressed concern after the initial plan was released about navigating the Enroll Indy school choice lottery system, which runs twice a year. 

Under the revised plan, the district would provide a default assigned neighborhood school to students in the following schools, if they dido not make any choice in the Enroll Indy system:

  • Raymond Brandes School 65 students will automatically go to Eleanor Skillen School 34
  • Floro Torrence School 83 students will go to Robert Frost School 106
  • William Penn School 49 elementary students will go to James Garfield School 31
  • George Buck School 94 students will go to Anna Brochhausen School 88

This change would require School 94 to be reclassified into Zone 3.

Expanding Butler Lab school zones

The updated plan would make Butler Lab Schools available for students in Zones 3 and 4. Butler Lab School 55, located in Zone 2, would also serve Zone 3. Butler Lab School 60, located in Zone 1, would also serve Zone 4. Students in every zone would have transportation to these schools.

Moving Thomas Gregg School 15 zone

Thomas Gregg School 15, an innovation school, would serve students in Zone 3 instead of Zone 4, allowing it to continue educating many of its current students.

Theodor Potter students continue at Harshman

Sixth grade students at Theodore Potter School 74 who want to continue dual-language education as seventh graders will be able to attend Harshman Middle School as seventh graders in 2023-24, before the school opens up as a dual language middle school operated by the Global Prep Academy innovation charter school in 2024-25.

William Penn School 49 wouldn’t convert

Under the initial plan, the Cold Spring innovation school would have moved its middle grades to William Penn School 49, which would have adopted Cold Spring’s STEM programming. School 49 would then have been operated by Cold Spring as an innovation school. 

But feedback from the School 49 community reflected a desire not to change the school into an innovation school.

The new plan proposes keeping School 49 as a STEM middle school run directly by the district beginning in 2024-25. 

Elementary students at School 49 who would be forced to move elsewhere would be given a guaranteed middle school seat back at School 49 if they chose to attend either Daniel Webster School 46 or James Garfield School 31. 

Cold Spring, which initially was going to shift from being a K-8 to a K-5 school, would instead remain a K-8 school for the duration of its innovation agreement, which runs through June 2027. The school would also serve both Zones 1 and 2 under the revised Rebuilding Stronger plan, instead of Zones 1 and 4. 

Edison and Riley 43 remain separate

The original plan proposed moving the K-5 students at Edison School of the Arts to James Whitcomb Riley School 43 and expanding arts programing there. But the revised plan would keep Edison as a K-8 school through June 2027, when the school’s innovation agreement ends. 

Edison would expand access to both zones 3 and 4 under the revised plan, while School 43 would  remain as K-8 through June 2027, and serve both zones 1 and 2.

STEM programming added to Anna Brochhausen

Zone 3 would receive a STEM program at Anna Brochhausen School 88, to expand STEM access for students in that area.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org.

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