Charter school expresses intent to acquire IPS school building if it closes

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A charter school within Indianapolis Public Schools borders is hoping to acquire Paul Miller Elementary School 114 if the school board approves its closure next month.

Victory College Prep, a K-12 school at 1780 Sloan Ave. on the city’s southeast side, just half a mile from School 114 at 2251 Sloan Ave., hopes to use the property to accommodate its growing enrollment.

“The Paul Miller property is just two city blocks from the VCP campus—and annually, in recent years, we’ve welcomed a growing number of Paul Miller transfer students into our VCP classrooms,” Ryan Gall, the school’s executive director, told the board on Thursday.

The district’s Rebuilding Stronger plan—an attempt to address declining enrollment amid charter school growth—would leave multiple school buildings open for charter schools to potentially occupy. Victory College Prep is the first to publicly announce its intentions to acquire such a building.

State law allows charter schools to lease or acquire empty school buildings for $1.

Six school buildings would become vacant at the end of this school year under the final draft of the Rebuilding Stronger plan. School 114 is one of the two schools proposed for closure that would merge with other existing schools.

A seventh building, Sidener Academy for High Ability Students, could also become available in the 2026-27 school year when those students move to a new building at the site of former Joyce Kilmer School 69.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson has said she hopes to work with lawmakers and keep the buildings under district ownership.

But timing dictated by state statute may throw a wrench in those plans. That’s because within 10 days of a vote to close a school building, the district must notify the state of the building’s availability. The next legislative session begins in 2023.

Victory College Prep, which has roughly 900 students, hopes to increase enrollment to as high as 1,600 students by 2025, Gall told Chalkbeat Indiana.

“This is just too good of an opportunity to not consider and pursue, given the dynamics at play,” he said, noting that the school is turning away students in grades 7-12 every year due to space limitations.

More than 80% of the school’s population are students of color and economically disadvantaged.

In 2022, 14.9% of students at Victory College Prep were proficient in both English and math on state exams, slightly above the IPS average of 14.1%. That proficiency rate at the school is higher than its pre-pandemic rate of 12.3% in 2019.

Gall told the school board that he hopes the school will enter into a partnership with the district.

“We would also hope to collaborate on this transition for the school community,” he said, “but are prepared to utilize all available legal pathways to acquire the facility, including purchasing the school under the $1 unused facility statute.”

The school board will consider the final Rebuilding Stronger plan for a vote on No. 17.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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