Three charters want to occupy closing IPS schools that district hopes to keep

Students at Victory College Prep, one of three charter schools that have expressed interest in occupying school buildings that Indianapolis Public Schools plans to close. (Chalkbeat photo/Dylan Peers McCoy)

At least three charter schools have expressed interest in occupying schools that Indianapolis Public Schools plans to close at the end of this school year, setting up a potential showdown with IPS over whether the buildings can stay under district ownership.

The six planned school closures follow the IPS board’s vote to adopt the Rebuilding Stronger plan last week, which reorganizes the district in an attempt to combat declining enrollment and operational inefficiencies.

State law requires school districts to allow charter operators and state educational institutions to purchase or lease unused classroom buildings for $1. Three charter operators—Victory College Prep on the south side, KIPP Indy in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, and Adelante Schools on the southeast side—hope to use three nearby school buildings.

At least two of the three charters have indicated they intend to move into the buildings through any viable means — including invoking the $1 law.

The district, however, hopes to keep those buildings by persuading the state legislature to grant some sort of reprieve.

Instead, district officials said last week that they plan to welcome more charter schools into the IPS innovation network and “explore possible facility partnerships”—suggesting new innovation charter schools could occupy any of the six empty buildings while the district retains ownership of the properties.

Some believe the officials’ proposal and timeline, however, represent an attempt to circumvent the $1 law. Charter school supporters argue that the school board triggered the $1 law as soon as it approved the plan last week, giving the district 10 days to notify the state that its buildings are available for acquisition.

The vote to shutter the schools comes roughly one week after the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the $1 law after school districts sued to overturn it.

Ryan Gall, executive director of Victory College Prep, expressed frustration at the lack of response from district leaders after telling the school board last month that he hopes to occupy the nearby building that currently houses Paul Miller School 114 to give his growing school more space. Victory College Prep was willing to offer the district more than just $1 for the building, he said, before the board voted to close the schools.

“We would like to acquire that building by whatever way we can,” he said.

Gall said he anticipates the school’s supporters to file a complaint with Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office if the district does not alert the state.

The district did not respond to a request for comment about whether the $1 law has already been triggered.

But after the board approved the Rebuilding Stronger plan last week, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the district “wanted to ensure that we acknowledged” the three charter schools’ interest in its buildings.

Adelante Schools, which IPS tasked with turning around the K-8 Emma Donnan Elementary and Middle School in 2020 as a charter school within the district’s innovation network, now hopes to occupy Raymond Brandes School 65 after this school year.

Adelante Executive Director Eddie Rangel said the school would work in partnership with the University of Indianapolis to create a K-5 “lab” school, in which student teachers gain experience alongside licensed educators.

“Our position is that we will use any available tool necessary to ensure that there is a school that is open at Raymond Brandes 65 next year,” Rangel said.

KIPP Indy, which operates three schools in the district’s innovation network, also hopes to use the closing Francis Parker Montessori School 56 to make space for its growing elementary and middle school student population.

But the school would prefer to work with the district through another innovation partnership, said Andy Seibert, KIPP Indy’s executive director.

“Our strong preference is to continue to work collaboratively and meaningfully with IPS around facilities and just in general,” he said. “That’s our orientation.”

A seventh building—the current Sidener Academy for High Ability Students—could also be available for charter schools when the school relocates in the 2026-27 school year.

Across the state, the $1 law itself has sparked complaints to Rokita’s office and at least one lawsuit from a charter school.

A charter school hoping to open in Carmel is now suing the Carmel Clay School Board, alleging the district violated the law when it announced plans to partner with the city parks department to explore the potential reuse of a shuttered elementary school building.

Rokita’s office previously concluded the district was not in violation of the law since the building was still occupied by the district.

Meanwhile, the South Bend Community School Corporation also faced two complaints alleging that the district failed to list Brown Intermediate Center and Hamilton Elementary School as available for acquisition.

The attorney general’s office concluded in July that the district was using the Brown building and therefore did not have to make it available for sale or lease, but must list its Hamilton building.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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10 thoughts on “Three charters want to occupy closing IPS schools that district hopes to keep

  1. It seems to me that the taxpayers – not the state legislature, not a court – should be the ones who decide the appropriate means for the use and disposal of school facilities that are no longer needed. It was taxpayer money that built and maintained the facilities, and essentially them giving away is an insult to those of paid for them in the first place.

    1. Well, since IPS clearly can’t maintain all the infrastructure it has, why not force them to let it go? Or lease it out for $1 per year and make the charter school do the maintenance.

      IPS hung onto the old Polk Dairy Stables, the old Ford plant on Washington, and the old Coca-Cola plant on Mass Ave. for WAY longer than they should have…the Dairy all but fell in on itself. The former limestone panels on the IPS HQ building were falling off…only to be replaced by an ugly chain link fence. They have a long history of not maintaining things.

    2. Chris, if the issue is that IPS doesn’t know how to run things, why don’t Statehouse Republicans just pass a law, take the school district over, and run it as they see fit?

      Call the law what it is, it’s giving away taxpayer property to religious and charter school operators who’ve donated big dollars to our legislators.

    3. I agree with Brent. It is an insult to not put them on the market, because tax payers paid a lot more than $1 to build these things.

    4. Joe, that’s a whole different topic.

      I don’t approve of the slow death of IPS by a thousand cuts (slicing off more schools every year). Concentrate it, or kill it.

      IPS should probably devolve all of its pieces outside Center Township to the various Township school districts (concentrate the district). Or maybe go out of business entirely, by dividing up the pieces inside Center in wedges to adjoining Township districts.

    5. IPS was drawn very specifically for very specific reasons, which is why there was busing for many years.

      And I disagree that the $1 law is another topic. The end goal is not have a public education system, or for it to be so mediocre and awful that only the poor or foolish send their kids there. What we are witnessing is just a death by a thousand cuts and that law is part of it.

  2. This $1 law is yet another way the shortsighted Indiana legislature is tying the hands of local governmental institutions. Meddling lawmakers cripple the ability of cities and school corporations to properly fund their operations, and in this case, then seek to gift their assets to private corporations. It’s almost as if Republicans are actively trying to make government fail.

    1. I’m not sure the $1 law was shortsighted. It seems like an intentional way for our state legislation to fund private and charter schools at taxpayers’ expense – like many of the things the Indiana state legislation seems to be doing. Otherwise, why not let the schools sell the properties for fair market value and thus recoup some of the taxpayer dollars?

      In some cases – such as our district – the $1 law has caused money to be dumped into old buildings when it would have been more cost effective to abandon and sell an existing building/property and build a new building on a new, better location. Because such a move means the abandoned property would only provide $1 instead of *millions* the cost formula changes.

      The state legislation needs to drop the law.

  3. I’m not sure the $1 law was shortsighted. It seems like an intentional way for our state legislation to fund private and charter schools at taxpayers’ expense – like many of the things the Indiana state legislation seems to be doing. Otherwise, why not let the schools sell the properties for fair market value and thus recoup some of the taxpayer dollars?

    In some cases – such as our district – the $1 law has caused money to be dumped into old buildings when it would have been more cost effective to abandon and sell an existing building/property and build a new building on a new, better location. Because such a move means the abandoned property would only provide $1 instead of *millions* the cost formula changes.

    The state legislation needs to drop the law.

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