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Parents demand answers about 'Rebuilding Stronger' at IPS Board meeting

Parents flood IPS Board meeting
Posted at 11:39 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 23:39:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Public School August board meeting was jam-packed with parents eager for answers about the district's 'Rebuilding Stronger' plan. The plan would address academic performance, enrollment, and financial issues facing the district.

"Our resources are finite. We know we are operating on a systems level. So the actions that we take do involve trade-offs as we think about change on a systems level," IPS superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson said.

The plan is lauded as a complete overhaul of the IPS structure, but it has not been revealed yet. However, in a presentation at the board meeting, Johnson shared some possible changes that will likely be included in the plan when it is finalized and released next month. They include creating enrollment zones that would expand school choice, replicating or expanding high-performing schools and closing low-performing schools or ones in poor condition.

It could also move all schools to a K-5, 6-8 model. Currently, the district has schools with many configurations - K-8, K-6, 7-8, K-5, 6-8, etc. District representatives believe this would help create equity in access to academic programs.

Adrienne Kuchik, principal of James A. Garfield School 31, spoke about being unable to provide some programs to her middle school students that they would potentially have access to at a 6-8 school.

"As a K8, I can't offer algebra to the three eighth graders I have that are ready for that," Kuchik said.

Parents shared passionate feelings about the proposed ideas. Public testimony lasted nearly two hours. Many parents spoke in support of expanding school choice, but many were worried about splitting up K-8 schools. Many parents who spoke came from Montessori schools. The mix of grades, with older children helping to care for the younger, is an integral part of the Montessori learning method.

Some parents believe that school stability will be a better option for students with autism or on IEPs.

"I really appreciate the stability offered in the k8 experience," said a parent whose daughter has autism.

IPS parent Megan Kriebel is concerned that this will lead to an influx of charter schools.

"With charter schools, I think there's a lack of transparency and the water is intentionally muddy around who is profiting from charter schools," Kriebel said.

Some parents asked that the needs of minority students be taken into account when restructuring. The district says that is a driving force behind the plan.

"It's not about school type, it's not about anything like that. It's literally about the data, where we want to see our Black and Brown kids succeed in education," Carolina Figueroa, an organizer with Stand for Children, an education advocacy group said.

Mostly, parents wanted to see the plan. The district has held community meetings and issued surveys over the last year about the initiative, but many parents say information has been confusing and difficult to access. But without seeing specifics, they don't know what will happen to their children's education over the next few years. And they say that's frustrating.

"We're trying to get some answers. There's a proposal that's been raised, but it's very vague, and we kinda want to know some more of the nuts and bolts and the ins and outs of things," IPS parent Jay Wetzel said.

The plan will be released on September 13, when Dr. Johnson gives her State of the District address.