NewsEducation / March 31, 2020

IPS Board Reaffirms Budget, Innovation Schools After Concerns On Meeting Access

The Indianapolis Public Schools' Board of Commissioners meets at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services. - WFYI News file photo

The Indianapolis Public Schools' Board of Commissioners meets at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services.

WFYI News file photo

Superintendent Johnson Says All IPS Staff To Be Paid During Closure

This story was updated 9 p.m. Tueday, March 31.

Indianapolis Public Schools Board held its first virtual meeting Tuesday since Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order allowed public agencies like school boards and city councils to meet electronically in effort to limit spreading the coronavirus, as long as the meeting can be accessed by the public.


The board reaffirmed its actions taken earlier in March, including approving a new budget and innovation management contracts for four schools, after state's access counselor said that previous meeting did not follow requirements of Indiana's Open Door Law.


Tuesday's meeting was streamed on the IPS Facebook page. Around 100 people watched a portion of the 30 minute meeting.


IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson updated the seven-member board of commissioners on the district's efforts to aid students and staff since the sudden closure of schools on March 13. Since then, nearly 30,000 meals were served to students at sites around the city.


Johnson also used her new commissioner-approved power to negotiate changes to staff pay and announced guaranteed compensation for all employees, including hourly support staff, through the governor's May 1 school closure order.


"We want to be a good partner, a good employer, and ensure we are not creating a financial hardship for our team who supports our students and families," Johnson says.


District staff are still working to figure out a remote learning plan for students. IPS is on spring break now, and school is scheduled to resume April 6. Johnson says high school students will be receiving some type of device to complete course work so they can continue to earn credit for graduation.


Access to the Internet remains a challenge for many families and some staff, she says. A survey about online computer access for IPS families ended today.


"I will be very straightforward, this is a place where the inequity is laid bare," Johnson says about the lack of Internet access within the city. She says talks are ongoing with companies to provide some type of home Internet for families.


The board reaffirmed its actions taken earlier in March, including approving new budget and innovation management contracts for Emma Donnan Elementary-Middle School, Stephen Foster School 67, Louis B. Russell Jr. School 48, Emma Donnan K-8 School and Arlington Woods School 99.


The review of that vote came after the state's public access counselor said the past meeting did not adhere to all requirements of the Open Door Law.


Earlier this month, out of precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the district announced the public could not attend the March 19 meeting and should instead watch a live video stream. IPS says it acted on various recommendations, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to keep the total number of people at no more than 10.


Luke Britt, Indiana's Public Access Counselor, previously told WFYI that while IPS took understandable health precautions, state law was not followed because the district didn’t allow the public to physically attend the meeting. That requirement has since been suspended.


An executive order signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb last week allows public agencies, like school districts and city councils, to meet virtually, if the public and media can watch or hear the proceedings in real time.


During Tuesday's meeting Board President Michael O’Connor said he still felt the board acted correctly, based on the governor's executive order and the need to reduce public risk. Yet, O'Connor also said he wanted to proactively address any concerns people may have about the way that meeting was held.


A live video stream for that March 19 meeting, provided through an ongoing contract with WFYI's television department, had technical problems and failed. A Facebook live video was the only way the public could view the proceedings, and it was hard to hear.


"I'd like the board to review and reaffirm the actions from the March 19 meeting to remove any uncertainty in regards to that meeting," O’Connor said.

The board voted 7-0 to approve the previous actions.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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