The Indianapolis Public Schools Board approved a second location of the popular Butler Lab School in Midtown during its meeting Thursday but removed a proposed transportation policy after objections from parents and students.
Tearful families who supported replicating the Lab School said the district changed plan details with little notice and were more eager to meet a deadline than communicating with them.
Others pointed out that the district gave parents less than three hours notice Thursday about an “engagement session” on the replication proposal. The session was held one hour before the school board’s vote.
Board commissioners agreed with parent concerns and amended the proposal by grandfathering transportation services for current families at Butler Lab School 60 at Pennsylvania and 34th Street.
“We have to do better. We really do,” Commissioner Kelley Bentley said about the district’s goals of replicating high-demand academic programs. “This is a learning opportunity for the way not to do it.”
The new Butler Lab will open for 2018-19 at the under-enrolled Eliza Blaker School 55, just southeast of College Avenue and 54th Street.
The failed policy would have ended busing for the 160 children who attend the original Butler Lab and also live east of College Avenue. Some of those families said they were being forced to attend the new school.
Families said they were told by school officials last week that transportation services would not be changed, only to find out during Tuesday's board discussion meeting that the proposal included the bussing change.
District officials said the cost of busing those families was too great -- an estimated $200,000. But commissioners questioned whether more planning could reduce or remove the cost.
IPS Board also approved a new boundary for the two schools starting in 2018-19: Students who live west of College Avenue are eligible to attend School 60. Students residing east of the street would attend School 55.
Nicole Goodson and her fifth-grade son Spencer choked back tears as they pleaded with the board to rethink the plan.
Spencer, who has attended School 60 since kindergarten, struggled to get through his explanation of how not all families who currently attend the school are able to drive their children to school because of jobs, cost or other challenges. His mom took over the reading.
“Please try to consider the people who are unable to drive their kids to school. Think about how they would feel if their plan was passed. Think about how this will impact children and adults alike,” she said.
Parent Eric Rumschlag echoed the criticism. His family lives in the Little Flower neighborhood with a third-grader at School 60 and a younger child planning to start kindergarten there.
He says they’ve poured “our time, energy, and funds into the school” only to feel locked out now.
“If you rely on bus transportation, your children will be forced to attend 55; there will be no choice,” he told the board.
The Butler University Laboratory School -- also known as William Bell School 60 -- has a strong following among families who believe in its student-focused and experiential learning curriculum.The school is founded on the Reggio Emilia approach and also includes new teaching approaches designed by Butler faculty.
There’s also a long wait list to get in and need for more space at the school.
So the IPS and Butler administration sought to replicate it at a location that was near its campus. Eliza Blaker School 55 was chosen, in part, due to its declining enrollment. In the past 10 years, enrollment dropped by 51 percent.
Six mobile classrooms will be installed at School 55 next year to provide enough room for Butler Lab program. The cost for the units is $250,000 the first year and around $45,000 each additional year.
The Butler Laboratory expansion will allow:
- All current School 55 students shall be offered a seat at the new Butler Lab program.
- School 60 will maintain a PK-8 enrollment for the 2018-19 school year.
- All current School 60 students may remain at School 60, and will receive transportation if they reside in the Eliza Blaker School 55 boundary zone for the 2018-19 school year.
- Siblings of current School 60 students zoned to School 55 may apply to School 60 with sibling priority.
- Minor renovations at School 60 and mobile units at School 55 will be used to provide additional classroom space.