April 26, 2022

Purdue charter may move into Broad Ripple High School, George Hill wants in too

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. - (WFYI News)

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.

(WFYI News)

The shuttered Broad Ripple High School could soon have students back in it. The North Campus of Purdue Polytechnic High School may reach a deal with Indianapolis Public Schools to move from its current location into the campus just a few blocks away.

IPS officials are considering whether to partner with the Purdue charter school and provide it a temporary home while a new location for Purdue Polytechnic North is built and ready for students in mid-2023.

The potential deal comes as the NBA’s George Hill proclaimed on Twitter he wants to reopen the building as a charter school. The former Indiana Pacers point guard is a Broad Ripple High School graduate.

“I’ve not had any conversation with Mr. Hill,” IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said Tuesday. “I am aware of the tweets he sent yesterday indicating his interest in the future of Broad Ripple. I'm pleased he's interested and would invite him to advocate with me at the Statehouse.”

Johnson has sought to change a state law that prevents IPS from easily selling the building or redeveloping the campus with an interested party, like Hill.

Is Broad Ripple High School for sale?

IPS leaders closed one middle school and three high schools in 2017 — John Marshall Middle School, Broad Ripple, Arlington and Northwest high schools as an effort to stabilize district  finances as enrollment declined.

According to the state's so-called “$1 dollar law,” if a school district closes a building the district must provide an opportunity for charter schools to lease or purchase the facility for $1.

Even though BRHS no longer offers classroom instruction, the “one dollar law” has not been triggered because IPS continues to use the building.  The facility houses the district’s facilities management division, multiple academic teams and the athletics department, and is used for sports practices and events.

Johnson said the law prevents the district from having every option to leverage the 375,000-square foot building, such as selling it or deciding how it is used. Johnson sought a carve out in the law for IPS during the recent General Assembly but the legislation did not gain widespread support.

“Our district has continued to advocate at the statehouse for a change in the $1 charter school law to have the needed flexibility to consider all possible opportunities for future use of this valuable asset and property,” Johnson wrote in an email statement earlier this month. “Unfortunately, we’ve not yet been successful [though] our position remains unchanged. As our Rebuilding Stronger planning work continues, we look forward to considering the future of Broad Ripple High School.”

Broad Ripple High School’s poor building condition

IPS released parts of a facilities study in March which found that 15 of 67 IPS school buildings are in poor or worse condition — including Broad Ripple High School. According to the report, Broad Ripple’s interior building condition is poor and the exterior condition is unsatisfactory.

WFYI asked the district for specific examples of the renovations needed to improve the building condition but IPS declined to respond before this story was published.

Johnson said after doing walkthroughs with the district’s facilities team and Purdue Polytechnic, they’ve concluded the building is satisfactory for the temporary agreement. 

“It’s not going to require any major renovations to the facility, but we'll be able to safely, securely provide a learning environment for those students for the 2022-23 school year,” Johnson said.

What is Purdue Polytechnic High School's North Campus?

Purdue Polytechnic is a local charter school network that partners with Purdue University to provide a STEM-focused customizable, student-led education that aims to bridge the transition from high school to college.

IPS partnered with the first Purdue Polytechnic campus in 2017, making it part of the district’s network of charter and autonomously managed schools. The IPS board will also vote later this week to renew a five-year contract with the first campus, now located in Englewood.

Purdue Polytechnic North, which opened in 2019, in response to interest from families on the city’s northside and beyond. It currently operates in a private building in the Broad Ripple neighborhood.

Scott Bess, head of Purdue Polytechnic, said more space is needed because of anticipated enrollment growth in the next year. The campus enrolls 189 students in grades 9-12, according to state data.

IPS staff have recommended the district partner with Purdue Polytechnic North for five years, but only provide a one-year facility-sharing agreement within the high school. If approved, Purdue Polytechnic North would use the third floor of the building to serve roughly 200 kids. Purdue Polytechnic will also continue to use its current building for roughly 100 students.

The school must vacate BRHS by June 30, 2023 and agree to not lay claim to the school by citing the “one dollar law.”

What is an IPS innovation charter school?

IPS board members are expected to vote on the new Purdue North contract and a renewal of the Purdue Englewood contract Thursday. They will also consider a new partnership with the Latinx-inspired charter school, Monarca Academy, and vote whether to renew a contract with another current charter school partner Avondale Meadows Middle School.

These innovation charter school contracts are agreements between IPS and the charter school’s nonprofit board. These partnerships allow charter schools to receive some of the district’s resources – such a facility, special education services and some property tax referendum – while IPS benefits from the enrollment boost that allows them to receive more state funding.

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


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