Group eyes vacant Illinois Street building for charter school

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An educational group is planning to spend about $4 million to renovate an Indianapolis warehouse to open its first charter school in what it hopes will become a statewide network.

Boston-based Phalen Leadership Academies intends to open the school in August in a vacant 63,000-square-foot building at 2323 N. Illinois St. The building has been little used since printing-products supplier Ross Gage Inc. moved to a bigger facility on Brookville Road in 2007. The school would be called the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academy.

The city's Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to hear details Wednesday on the renovation project as part of a rezoning petition for the 1.88-acre site just south of Fall Creek Parkway.

Phalen Leadership Academies received $1 million from education reform group The Mind Trust in 2012 to help it launch schools.

Founder Earl Phalen plans to combine the grant with a variety of other contributions to open five charter schools in the Indianapolis area and ultimately start 10 schools statewide. Major donors may have schools named after them, Phalen said.

Before adding other schools, the organization must submit reports to the Indiana Charter School Board to verify that its first school has performed as promised and that it has the staff and financial capacity to launch another one.

“They have to show us that they are meeting or on obvious track to meet our performance criteria,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, executive director of the Indiana Charter School Board, which was created by the state Legislature in 2011. Phalen Leadership Academies will need at least one and maybe two years of academic data from its first school to show it is ready to start another one, she said.

The inaugural Illinois Street school, named after Phalen’s parents, will enroll 300 students in kindergarten, first and second grades during its first year. It will add one grade every year until it reaches 8th grade. It plans to have 900 students schoolwide by then.

About 25 teachers and administrators will work there initially.

Principal Jeremy Baugh said Phalen Leadership Academies incorporates a “blended learning” model that relies heavily on technology.

The school  will use a 225-day calendar of eight-hour days, compared to the traditional model of 6.5 hours a day for 180 days. Twenty-five of the school days will be part of the Summer Advantage learning program—a local program Phalen started in 2009 that now serves 15,000 students.

Phalen Leadership Academies will ramp up its outreach in March as it continues to enroll students and hire staff for the upcoming school year, assuming it receives its necessary rezoning approval, Phalen said.


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  1. I am so impressed that the smoking ban FAILED in Kokomo! I might just move to your Awesome city!

  2. way to much breweries being built in indianapolis. its going to be saturated market, if not already. when is enough, enough??

  3. This house is a reminder of Hamilton County history. Its position near the interstate is significant to remember what Hamilton County was before the SUPERBROKERs, Navients, commercial parks, sprawling vinyl villages, and acres of concrete retail showed up. What's truly Wasteful is not reusing a structure that could still be useful. History isn't confined to parks and books.

  4. To compare Connor Prairie or the Zoo to a random old house is a big ridiculous. If it were any where near the level of significance there wouldn't be a major funding gap. Put a big billboard on I-69 funded by the tourism board for people to come visit this old house, and I doubt there would be any takers, since other than age there is no significance whatsoever. Clearly the tax payers of Fishers don't have a significant interest in this project, so PLEASE DON'T USE OUR VALUABLE MONEY. Government money is finite and needs to be utilized for the most efficient and productive purposes. This is far from that.

  5. I only tried it 2x and didn't think much of it both times. With the new apts plus a couple other of new developments on Guilford, I am surprised it didn't get more business. Plus you have a couple of subdivisions across the street from it. I hope Upland can keep it going. Good beer and food plus a neat environment and outdoor seating.