March 12, 2019

Purdue Polytechnic High School North Posts Low Enrollment Data, Asks Community Partners For Help

Principals for Purdue Polytechnic's two high schools answered questions from community partners and parents Tuesday morning.  - Carter Barrett/WFYI

Principals for Purdue Polytechnic's two high schools answered questions from community partners and parents Tuesday morning.

Carter Barrett/WFYI

Purdue Polytechnic High School officials asked Indianapolis community leaders to promote its new campus on the city’s north side, at a meeting Tuesday.

Only 34 students have applied to the public charter school’s north campus so far. However, leaders say they hope to enroll between 100 and 125 students in its 2019-20 freshman class.

The school will open in Broad Ripple, not far from shuttered Broad Ripple High School. A location Purdue Polytechnic, along with city developers, have vied for.

Purdue Polytechnic didn’t announce the new location until several months into the Indianapolis Public Schools enrollment lottery process.

“We knew that we were going to have to catch up,” Head of Purdue Polytechnic Schools Scott Bess says. “So we're certainly behind where we would love to be, but we also know that we're starting to accelerate. That’s why meetings like this are so important.”

At the meeting, school officials asked business owners and community groups, including the Mind Trust and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, to spread the word about the school’s new campus.

This will be Purdue’s second STEM-focused high school.

The first opened two years ago in downtown Indianapolis. It was designed as a pipeline between underrepresented minorities and Purdue University. The model was pushed by former governor and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels.

That first downtown location has also struggled with under-enrollment. And Enroll Indy data shows 41 percent of students enrolled in the downtown school ultimately did not attend.

On the positive side, the school boasts high student retention. And school officials say PSAT scores for freshmen were promising.

Indianapolis Public Schools partnered with the downtown campus in its first year, and the IPS school board will vote on whether to partner with the new north campus in coming months.

Bess says he hopes the north campus will attract some students from outside the district. This way the school can provide a choice program to township students without competing directly with IPS for students.

It remains to be seen if low enrollment will affect Purdue Polytechnic High School North as it seeks IPS partnership. 

At least one school board commissioner says opening another high school near where Broad Ripple High School closed would not be wise.

At November’s school board meeting, commissioner Venita Moore said Broad Ripple High School was half empty and it closed to make existing IPS high schools more effective.

“I need to understand why we need to have two Purdue Polytechs, one on the north side one in central Indianapolis, considering the fact that we reduced the number of schools to make our schools more effective,” Moore said.

The school already has a charter authorized by the mayor’s office and will open regardless of a district partnership. However, an IPS partnership would allow Purdue Polytechnic to draw proximity boundary preferences and purchase services from the district.

Purdue Polytechnic High School North will also open regardless of student enrollment, Bess says.

“You sit here and say, you have to hit some enrollment targets, but we're committed to the school opening up,” Bess says. “So if we're under-enrolled, we're still going to open because we think the experience and just having the name out there and the presence bodes well for the next year.”

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