At Arlington High School, change is becoming a constant. In the last six years, the school was taken over by the state for bad academic performance, abandoned by the charter operator tasked with turning it around, and returned to the management of Indianapolis Public Schools.
But in recent years there have been bright spots for the northeast side school, including an increasingly engaged network of passionate alumni.
This fall, the school faced yet another change as middle school students were removed and an influx of high schoolers came from John Marshall, which was converted from a high school to a middle school.
Now, the district is looking to reverse course by converting the campus to a middle school under a plan proposed by Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. The board is expected to vote on the proposal in September. If it is approved, Arlington would become a middle school next fall.
The board will have meetings about the plan at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Arlington and Thursday at Northwest. Both meetings will begin with 90 minutes for public comment. The deadline to sign up online to speak is noon the day of the meeting. These meetings follow an impassioned meeting at Broad Ripple High School and a meeting at John Marshall that drew just a few speakers.
Considering the vocal community and alumni support for Arlington, there will likely be many advocates making the case to keep the school open. But there are also some factors that likely influenced the recommendation to close the school.
Here are some reasons to keep Arlington open:
- Arlington has loyal alumni and community supporters who stepped in to help the struggling school when it was returned to the district after state takeover. Board member Venita Moore, an Arlington graduate, has raised concerns about closing the school. (Chalkbeat spoke with Timothy Bass, the president of the alumni association, as part of a project to collect memories from high schools facing closure.)
- Closing John Marshall and converting Arlington to a middle school could be seen as abandoning the far eastside, one of the poorest communities in the city. Because many families don’t have cars, it could be a challenge getting parents engaged in schools outside their neighborhood.
- IPS will need the state’s permission. Although IPS manages the daily operations at the school, it is still being overseen by the state. If the district votes to close the school and convert the campus to a middle school, the plan will need approval from the Indiana State Board of Education.
Here are some reasons Arlington is facing closure:
- Although Arlington is managed by the district, it’s still overseen by the state board. Converting Arlington to a middle school could be a good opportunity for the district to get out from under the state’s thumb.
- The plan for reconfiguring the district’s high schools would move to an all magnet system, where students would choose schools based on their academic focus. But in order to bus students to any program in the district, IPS officials say that schools should be clustered near the center of the city. Arlington is at the far side of the district, and busing students from the other side of the district to a magnet program would lead to long rides for students and high costs for the district.
- The school is more than half empty. This year, the district removed middle schoolers from Arlington and brought in high schoolers from John Marshall. But even with the students who used to go to Marshall, the district projected that the campus — which can house more than 2,000 students — would be just 32 percent full.