Indianapolis gaining six charter schools, losing five

Six new charter schools are opening in Indianapolis this year. At the same time, five charter schools closed their doors in the face of enrollment, financial or academic woes.

The new schools have various focuses, such as project-based learning or educating students with autism, and most are expansions of existing Indianapolis charter networks. They serve students in K-12—notably including two high schools that are taking root just one year after Indianapolis Public Schools closed three campuses due to low enrollment.

Indianapolis schools must compete for students and, therefore, viability, and each year a handful of charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately managed, are forced to close.

The schools that closed this year were two schools in one of the city’s highest-performing charter networks, a school that was given a second life after closing once before, a tiny elementary school, and a campus dedicated to serving troubled teens.

Here’s a roundup of the charter schools that are opening and closing this year.

New schools

Purdue Polytechnic High School North

Just two years after Purdue University launched an unorthodox charter high school, it is opening a second campus. Instead of a traditional class schedule, students pursue projects throughout the year that incorporate the academic skills Indiana high schoolers are supposed to learn.

For months, officials from Purdue pushed to gain access to the building that used to house the closed Broad Ripple High School, but IPS leaders have resisted, hoping to sell it on the open market. And the fight doesn’t appear to be over. Purdue is now in a temporary site near the Broad Ripple campus.

KIPP Indy Legacy High School

The KIPP charter network has run a middle school for over a decade, and it opened an elementary school five years ago. Beginning this year, the network will also have its own high school.

The KIPP schools are part of the IPS innovation network—allowing the charter schools to tap into district services and the district to claim credit for their enrollment and academic results. The new school is controversial because it is opening a year after the district closed three traditional high schools due to low enrollment. However, some support the deal because the KIPP school could have opened as a charter school even if it were not partnering with the district.

Paramount School of Excellence-Englewood

The Paramount network on the near-east side, which expanded to a second elementary campus last fall, is opening a middle school. The school is known for posting stellar results on state standardized tests, and the model also incorporates nature, such as gardening and raising chickens. The middle school is expected to be a feeder for Purdue Polytechnic, with a “soft introduction” to the high school’s hands-on approach.

Invent Learning Hub

A K-8 school on the southeast side, Invent Learning Hub is an independent charter school founded by Aleicha Ostler, a former principal of IPS Super School 19. Ostler aims for Invent to focus on design thinking, personalized learning, and post-secondary planning.

Dynamic Minds Academy

A K-12 charter school, Dynamic Minds Academy is designed to educate students on the autism spectrum. The school integrates academic instruction with treatment by co-locating with a therapy provider who serves children with autism.

James & Rosemary Phalen Elementary School

School 93 joined the Phalen Leadership Academy charter network three years ago as an IPS innovation school, but it did not have a charter and it continued to get some services from the district, such as special education. Beginning this year, the campus will have a charter.

Closed schools

Tindley Collegiate and Tindley Renaissance

One of Indianapolis’s most prominent charter networks, Tindley Accelerated Schools consolidated its five schools into three this year, due to financial problems and trouble recruiting students. Last year the network had 1,300 students, one of its lowest enrollments since it began expanding in 2012.

Amid the consolidation, two schools closed: the middle school, Tindley Collegiate, merged with the network’s high school, and Tindley Genesis, near Ivy Tech Community College, closed.

Tindley will re-brand its elementary school in Avondale Meadows, which had been known as Renaissance, with the Tindley Genesis name.

Indianapolis Lighthouse East

Low test scores, dwindling enrollment, and high teacher and principal turnover led the board to close Indianapolis Lighthouse East. The school, which served grades 7-12, was previously known as Monument Lighthouse, and it had closed once before with the board citing many similar problems. It reopened in 2015, but it continued to struggle.

Another Indianapolis charter school that was also managed by the national Lighthouse Academies network spun off to become an independent school this year. The network’s south-side campus, which has been more academically and financially stable, is now known as Victory College Prep.

Marion Academy

Designed to serve students who have been in the juvenile justice system, were expelled or were at-risk of expulsion, Marion Academy struggled since it opened in 2015, according to an article in the Indianapolis Monthly. The school enrolled about 120 students in grades 6-12 last year and had financial problems. The board voted to close Marion Academy just days before the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

Indianapolis Academy of Excellence

A 129-student school on the city’s northeast side, Indianapolis Academy of Excellence was forced to close after the Indiana Charter School Board voted not to renew its charter. The school had low test scores, declining enrollment, and financial issues. But a final blow came with little warning: In June, its curriculum provider and instruction partner, TeamCFA, canceled its contract with the school.

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

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