April 28, 2022

Purdue charter gets temporary home at Broad Ripple High School

Broad Ripple High School was closed in 2017 as part of a wider effort to stabilize finances as enrollment declined in the Indianapolis Public School district. - (Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Broad Ripple High School was closed in 2017 as part of a wider effort to stabilize finances as enrollment declined in the Indianapolis Public School district.

(Eric Weddle/WFYI)

Two charter schools will become part of the Indianapolis Public Schools district and get temporary access to underused buildings, including the shuttered Broad Ripple High School. Purdue Polytechnic North will move into Broad Ripple High School and Monarca Academy will get space in Northwest Middle School. The Indianapolis Public Schools board of commissioners approved the contracts Thursday.

Purdue Polytechnic and Broad Ripple High School

Purdue Polytechnic North opened in 2019 to students on the northside of Indianapolis, but the school has quickly outgrown its space within a private building in the Broad Ripple Neighborhood. The school has 189 students in grades 9-12, according to state data, and expects to enroll roughly 300 students in the fall. Next academic year Purdue North will operate roughly 100 students in its current building, as well as 200 students inside Broad Ripple High School for one academic year until its permanent school is finished in mid-2023.

Residents in the Broad Ripple neighborhood have been concerned about the future of the building since it closed nearly five years ago. Multiple IPS departments will continue to work within BRHS, but the district has not decided what it will do with the building after the one-year contract with PPHS North.

Purdue Polytechnic also agreed not to lay claim to the building under a state law that allows charter schools to lease or buy unused buildings owned by school corporations. The district has tried to change the so-called  “one dollar law,” before determining the facility’s future.

Monarca Academy to provide Latinx-inspired curriculum

IPS also approved a contract with Monarca Academy, a new charter school that aims to serve the Latinx population. The school will begin serving sixth graders in the fall with the goal of adding a grade each year until they reach twelfth grade.

According to the agreement, Monarca will operate inside Northwest Middle School for the first year of its five-year contract.

“Because we are in our rebuilding stronger process and there are longer term decisions to make about our facilities and our program offerings across the district, we've committed to just the one year of housing the school and then conversations will continue about the out years,” Johnson said during a press conference Tuesday.

Northwest currently has roughly 400 seventh and eighth graders. The building is also home to IPS’ Newcomer Program, which serves sixth through ninth grade English language learners who are new to Indianapolis. Only 35 percent of the building is currently in use.

Monarca has until the end of January 2023 to identify a building for the next four years or else its contract could be terminated. IPS is expected to release a plan to redesign the school district by October. During Thursday’s meeting Commissioner Will Pritchard suggested the district could consider plans to allow Monarca to continue using an IPS facility as the district evaluates its programs.

“They've indicated preliminary interest to [continue] to want to engage with IPS from a facilities arrangement,” Johnson said. “So it does not preclude us from continuing to have those conversations. But it also does not commit us past this first year.”

Contention toward new innovation charter school contracts

The vote for IPS to partner with PPHS North and Monarca Academy passed 5-1, with Commissioner Taria Slack opposed. Commissioner Venita Moore was absent. Before the vote, Slack said the district needs to make a permanent decision about BRHS, which is why she couldn’t support PPHS North using the facility while IPS is in the process of redesigning the district’s offerings and school locations.

Both Commissioners Slack and Susan Collins had concerns about Monarca Academy being in the same facility as the middle school and the Newcomers Program for new immigrant and refugee students, and said this could lead to chaos.

"The need of relationship building is important for our students,” Slack said. “What I don’t understand is how placing a school with already two programs in the same building will not cause disruption, tension amongst these programs."

Innovation charter contract renewals

The board of commissioners also renewed five-year contracts with two current innovation charter schools — Purdue Polytechnic in Englewood and Avondale Meadows Middle School. Both schools partnered with IPS in 2017 and neither of them operate inside an IPS-owned facility.

PPHS Englewood serves over 560 students — roughly 39 percent Black, 24 percent Hispanic and 30 percent White. Nearly 64 percent of students receive free or reduced meals, the national standard for calculating child poverty.

Avondale Meadows Middle School has just over 150 students — about 92 percent Black and roughly 78 percent receive free or reduced meals.

IPS is expected to also vote on contract renewals with Herron Classical Schools in May.

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

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