IPS could ask voters to approve $810m referendums for ‘Build Back Stronger’ plan

For the first time, the Indianapolis Public Schools District has announced how it will pay for its sweeping plan to close and merge six schools and change grade configurations at nearly three dozen schools. The plan, which has been unpopular among many in the community, requires voters to approve more than $800 million in property tax referendums in the May 2023 election.

IPS also announced minor changes to the Rebuild a stronger initiative — his plan to overhaul the district to simultaneously improve the academic performance of students of color.

The final plan, like the draft released last month, would close and consolidate schools, duplicate popular academic programs, upgrade and construct new buildings and create self-sustaining colleges. It would also establish enrollment zones so that all neighborhoods have similar access to different school choices.

“Our community has supported us in the past, and [I hope] they will continue to support us because of what it means for the experiences our children can have and the opportunity to continue to support our teachers and do the work they do every day,” said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. at WFYI ahead of Thursday’s board meeting. , when plan updates have been shared with the community.

IPS could ask voters to approve $810m in referendums

Much of the plan hinges on voters approving a new $410 million Capitol referendum. The funds would cover the costs of facility updates, which include improvements to building security and sports fields, among other projects at 14 buildings. Fifteen of the 67 IPS school buildings are in poor condition or worseaccording to district documents.

IPS would also ask voters to approve an eight-year term property tax referendum it would cost about $400 million, or $50 million a year. This would result in a monthly property tax increase of about $6 for the average homeowner for the duration of the referendum. Johnson said those dollars would support staff compensation. Last year, the district provided teachers a 3% salary increasemaking it one of the highest paying school districts in Marion County.

If approved, the new referendums would replace the current ones voters approved in 2018 for $220 million in general expenses and $52 million for capital projects. Since then, the neighborhood has reduced spending by $261 million, but that’s nearly $67 million less than expected. But Johnson told IPS, in partnership with the Chamber of Indyoverestimated how much money they would save by having a few high schoolers use IndyGo transportation services.

Johnson said the referendums would allow the district to provide popular academic programs to all students to improve their academic performance. But Johnson said the district would have to re-evaluate its plan if the referendums are not approved.

“If what our community is saying is, ‘This is not something we support’, then I fully anticipate that we will engage in a different process that will be much more about, well, what we need to reduce and eliminate. , ” she says.

If the referendum on the capital projects is not approved, it would take more time for the district to complete the improvement of the facilities. It could also hamper the continuation and expansion of some programming. But the district plans to move forward with school closings if approved by the Board of Commissioners.

“I think school closures, that’s definitely not going to be in play,” Johnson said. “I think after May [if the referendums don’t pass]we would need to have a conversation about, you know, if there are any additional schools that might need to go offline or any additional cuts that we need to make.

IPS Unveils New Changes to Rebuilding Stronger Plan

Over the past year, IPS staff developed a plan to offer more to students due to poor conditions and low enrollment. On Thursday, the district announced new updates to some school facilitiesas well as the following new school programming updates:

  • William Penn School 49 will still become a college, but IPS will run School 49 with a STEM model rather than pursuing an innovation partnership with Cold Spring. Cold Spring will remain a K-8 school for the duration of its innovation agreement, through June 2027, and will serve Zones 1 and 2.

  • Center for Inquiry 2 and Washington Irving Elementary School 14 will no longer merge. Both schools will remain open and operational. IPS could partner with the Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation, where IPS will run School 14.

  • Edison School of the Arts and James Whitcomb Riley 43 will remain K-8 for the duration of their agreement through June 2027.

  • There will be a cohort for current 6th graders from Theodore Potter School 74 who will go to Harshman Middle School to provide them with ongoing bilingual immersion education.

The goal of these sweeping changes is to improve academic performance by providing more rigorous options for black and brown students who lag behind their white district peers and provide equitable access to special education services, athletics, extracurricular activities, and academic programs regardless of where a student lives in the city.

The district has a long way to go to improve state standardized test scores to meet the board of commissioners. objective of a success rate of 50% by 2025 for Black and Hispanic students. In 2022, only 5% of black students and nearly 8% of Hispanic students passed both the English and math portions of ILEARN. It is relative to 35% of their white peers.

Now, students in grade 6 or higher would have priority in lottery entry for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. IPS will also assign schools to any students who have not made a selection by the end of the second Indy registration deadline.

Major changes proposed compared to the initial plan still in place

Currently, not all schools offer the same advanced courses due to staffing and resource constraints. Under the new model, all elementary and middle schools would have the same arts, music, physical education, or computer classes and other programs.

The district will end the K-8 school model for district-operated schools and create K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools. Each zone will have access to a college that offers a specialized program – International Baccalaureate, STEM, arts or others. But in order to provide those offerings, the original and updated proposals suggest closing six schools, merging others and changing classroom configurations at nearly three dozen schools.

IPS proposed the following new buildings:

  • Build two new elementary schools and make improvements to 14 facilities.

  • Reopen the Thomas Carr Howe High School building to offer IB programming to middle school students.

  • Purdue Polytechnic North High School would remain permanently in the Broad Ripple High School building.

The district will also create a College Success Advisory Committee to help with the transition to the 6th-8th grade buildings.

IPS would also close schools with low enrolment, academic performance or dangerous construction conditions. Here are the schools initially suggested for closure and consolidation at the end of this school year:

  • George Buck School 94; Floro Torrence School 83; Raymond Brandes School 65; and Francis Bellamy Preschool and the Step Ahead program will close.

  • Francis Parker School 56 would close and merge with James Russell Lowell School 51. School 51 becomes a Montessori program.

  • Paul Miller School 114 would close and merge with Frederick Douglass School 19. School 19 would no longer be operated as an innovation school.

IPS efforts to reach the community, feedback from parents

IPS detained more than 75 public meetings about the originally proposed plan and provided language interpretation services. They also sent automated text messages, voicemails and emails to families, and distributed information packets in car lines, to students returning home and to bus drivers.

Students, parents and community members have expressed concerns about the plan at community meetings over the past month. The District Teachers Association also asked the district to push back its timeline for approving any changes. The four IPS School Board candidates said they would vote against the original plan. Parents said they want more detail and transparency on the plan, better teacher retention for educators at schools that are closing, and worry about how to safely transport multiple children if classroom configurations change. and force them to frequent several school buildings.

And after?

The IPS Board of Commissioners is now planned to vote on the plan during their working session on 17 November. If approved, some schools would close at the end of this school year. New class configurations would begin for the 2024-2025 school year. Facility updates and construction of new buildings would begin next school year and are expected to be completed in the 2026-2027 school year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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