September 6, 2023

Purdue Polytechnic to open third Indy charter high school

Purdue Polytechnic West would be the third charter high school in the Purdue network in Indianapolis. - Eric Weddle / WFYI

Purdue Polytechnic West would be the third charter high school in the Purdue network in Indianapolis.

Eric Weddle / WFYI

A third Purdue Polytechnic charter high school has been approved to open in the district boundary of Indianapolis Public Schools.

This comes after Purdue Polytechnic failed to win approval for a charter school in Pike Township late last year. Some families in the northwest township opposed the school, arguing the option was not needed and the charter organization had not built enough trust among the community.  In a surprise tie vote, the Indianapolis Charter School Board did not approve Purdue’s application. That school was estimated to open this fall. 

Purdue Polytechnic’s leaders could have returned to the Indianapolis charter board in an attempt for approval, according to a spokesperson from the mayor’s Office of Education Innovation. But instead, they sought a charter from Trine University's EducationOne. The Angola-based private university approved the application in January.

The proposed high school, Purdue Polytechnic West, will be located at a yet to be determinted location on the west side of Indianapolis. Keeanna Warren, the CEO of Purdue University’s network of charter schools, said that's where the need is.

“We believe in the idea of a community school and a neighborhood school,” Warren said. “We don't feel like if a family from the far west side or the west side wants the Purdue Polytechnic high school education, we don't feel like they should have to trek over to the east side.”

The proposal calls for 100 9th graders to enroll in the first year, and add a consecutive grade each following year. The enrollment capacity is proposed to be 500 students by the seventh year. An opening date is not yet set.

In the application, Purdue said few minority students on the city's west side matriculating to Purdue University. Additionaly, the application argues, Purdue can provide a "smaller, more relationship-focused school" compared to the larger Pike or Ben Davis high schools. 

Purdue Polytechnic operates charter high schools in Broad Ripple and Englewood, with a total enrollment of around 850 students last year. A third location is in South Bend.

The school’s mission is to increase academic opportunity for Black and Brown students and get them admitted and to succeed in four-year colleges. The curriculum focuses on project based learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“When you're looking at where high school should go, number one, you want to make sure that community desires it,” Warren said. “You want to make sure that the infrastructure and all the supports are available to make sure the school is a success.”

A public hearing on Purdue Polytechnic’s charter application was held Jan. 5 at the Martindale-Brightwood Public Library. According to Trine University, 25 public responses were received in favor of the application approval, and three were against.

Charter schools are public schools that are granted a contract to operate by one of several authorizers in Indiana, including Trine University. Charter schools receive direct per-student funding similar to traditional school corporations and are eligible to receive additional per-student grants. But they don’t receive property tax funds to cover transportation or facilities.

Contact WFYI Marion County education reporter Sydney Dauphinais at sdauphinais@wfyi.org.

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