There’s no educational, financial, or legal reason to delay action.
Indianapolis Public Schools came back to life this month, as students flooded through hallways and settled into classrooms. But at Broad Ripple High School, for the first time in nearly a century, a school year started with silence.
The decision to close Broad Ripple was a difficult one for everyone. As an elected official, I understand that tough decisions come with the territory, and I don’t question the rationale for restructuring IPS high schools.
But the community does deserve a voice in the future of Broad Ripple High School. We’re in danger of missing a unique opportunity to write a new chapter for this great institution — a partnership with Purdue Polytechnic High School that would benefit Broad Ripple Village, students and families across our city, and the taxpayers.
Readers probably know the background: Purdue Polytechnic, a great academic program focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), already operates in IPS and has made a lucrative proposal to make Broad Ripple the site of its second Indy high school. It’s six months past the district’s original timeline to settle the fate of the property; despite the strong Purdue offer, they want to delay a decision another year or more.
The arguments for embracing Purdue Polytechnic are straightforward, starting with students: Many of our fastest-growing, high-paying jobs are in STEM fields; Purdue Polytechnic would prepare local kids for college and career opportunities, and to take part in the future of Indy’s economy.
Concerns about reopening a high school at Broad Ripple miss the bigger picture — Purdue Polytechnic would be part of IPS, but without transportation and other costs that influenced the district to close Broad Ripple High School.
In fact, the new high school would strengthen IPS. There are 17,000-plus high school-aged students who live within 15 minutes of the property, which is actually closer to other area high schools — North Central, Lawrence Central and Lawrence North, and Pike, to name a few — than to Arsenal Tech, which also offers STEM programs.
I understand that Purdue has offered to recruit only students from the Broad Ripple neighborhood and suburban school systems, focusing on households with incomes that qualify for free or reduced lunch. There’s no downside to IPS welcoming another great school, adding an innovative option that will draw new students.
The financial case is equally strong. Purdue Polytechnic is willing to pay a fair price for space (compared to IPS’ analysis) and the district would gain revenue right away, boosting its budget instead of paying to maintain the building while rolling the dice on the real estate market. And since the size of the property exceeds Purdue’s current needs, the lease wouldn’t close the door on other development opportunities.
There’s no educational, financial, or legal reason to delay action on Broad Ripple — in fact, if IPS followed the spirit of state law, they’d have to offer the property to charter schools for $1.
A recent IPS statement argued, “We believe our constituents would not want us to circumvent a public process and bypass due diligence.” On the contrary, I’m strongly convinces that these constituents — our community — don’t want more months of meetings that put the Purdue plan in jeopardy. We want action.
I represent the Broad Ripple area on the City-County Council, serve as executive director of the Broad Ripple Village Association, live and own a business just minutes from Broad Ripple High School. Let me say loud and clear: The public has spoken in favor of a high school to serve Broad Ripple, and we support the Purdue Polytechnic proposal as a ‘win-win’ for IPS, students in our neighborhood and beyond, and the taxpayers.
IPS already conducted an extensive public process around the closure of Broad Ripple High School, and has had another year for due diligence. In the meantime, we’ve had neighborhood forums and collected thousands of petition signatures on behalf of educational reuse of the former high school.
In short, jeopardizing the Purdue deal with further delays wouldn’t serve the public interest. It would thwart public sentiment, not clarify it. I urge the IPS Board of Commissioners to follow the facts, truly listen to its constituents, and reconsider the Purdue proposal before this unique opportunity slips away.
Colleen Fanning is executive director of the Broad Ripple Village Association and a District 2 City-County councillor.
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