Two schools seek to give Pike Township its first charters

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Two charter high schools within Indianapolis Public Schools boundaries are hoping to expand to Pike Township, an area that currently has no charter schools.

Purdue Polytechnic High School, the growing charter school that opened its second Indianapolis campus inside Broad Ripple High school this year, hopes to open a third Indianapolis high school in August 2023, according to a letter of intent submitted to the mayor’s Office of Education Innovation, or OEI. The office authorizes charter schools in Indianapolis that are approved by the Indianapolis Charter School Board.

Believe Schools, which operates Believe Circle City High School in the Crown Hill neighborhood, also hopes to open Believe: Pike Academy in August 2024.

Both schools hope their expansion into Pike Township will help serve students of color. They would become the only physical charter schools in Pike Township if approved by the Indianapolis Charter School Board. The Indiana Charter School Authority and OEI, which oversee nearly all of the charter schools in Marion County, have not previously authorized charters in Pike.

Enrollment at both schools has increased over the past few years. 

Purdue Polytechnic opened its first campus on the city’s east side for the 2017-18 school year. The school, a partnership between Purdue University and the city of Indianapolis, aims to increase the number of students of color attending Purdue and higher education overall.

Scott Bess, executive director of the school, said Purdue Polytechnic wants to expand into Pike Township because it is looking closely at areas with high populations of Black and Hispanic students.

“As you look across the state, typically in most urban areas, there’s some challenge with outcomes,” he said.

The east side of the city already has a lot of traditional district and charter high schools, Bess noted–so Purdue Polytechnic decided to look west to expand.

Despite the pandemic, Purdue Polytechnic has been able to grow from one Indianapolis campus of 151 students in 2017-18 to 752 students across two campuses in 2021-22, according to state data. It is building a new north campus facility in Broad Ripple, and also has a campus in South Bend.

Meanwhile, Believe Circle City High School has also grown from 54 students during its opening year in 2020-21 to 120 in 2021-22. The school touts itself as an early college and career preparatory high school.

The school is receiving $500,000 in a Capacity Building Award from the Mind Trust, which cultivates charter schools and education leaders in Indianapolis, for its second campus.

Believe: Pike Academy will have a gifted and talented program, according to its letter of intent submitted to OEI.

“We are excited about the work we have been able to do, and we believe the Capacity Building Award will allow us to increase our impact in the Black and Brown community,” Kimberly Neal, founder and executive director of Believe, said in a statement from the Mind Trust.

Both high schools would add one grade each year: Purdue Polytechnic would start with 100 freshmen in its first year, ending with 125 in each grade for a total of 500 by its seventh year, according to its letter of intent. Believe: Pike Academy also proposes beginning with 100 students and reaching 490 in seven years.

Results from the SAT, which juniors took for the first time in the 2021-22 school year as a graduation requirement, show that Purdue Polytechnic students across both of its Indianapolis campuses tested college-ready in reading and math at a rate above the IPS average.

Data for Believe Circle City High School was not publicly reported because of the small sample size. But Believe students have earned a total of 314 college credits within two years through the school’s partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, according to the Mind Trust.

Applications for both schools are due in September. The Indianapolis Charter School Board will decide whether to grant charters for the schools during a public hearing in November. Charter schools require an authorizer to oversee their performance.

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

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