Located on the edge of Indianapolis Public Schools, Northwest High School serves one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. This could be the campus’ last year as a high school, but it would continue to educate neighborhood children under a proposal from the administration.
The school is one of two campuses Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has recommended converting to a middle school as part of a high school reconfiguration plan. It also calls for closing a high school and a middle school. The newcomer program, which serves students who are just beginning to learn English, would also move to the Northwest building.
That would be a good fit for some families in the Lafayette Square area, which is a hub for refugees and immigrants from around the world. In the school’s ZIP code area, 35 percent of residents speak a language other than English at home, according to census data. That diversity is present in Northwest, and last year, nearly a quarter of the school’s students were English language learners.
The board will meet to discuss the proposal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northwest, which will begin with 90 minutes for public comment. The deadline to sign up online to speak is noon Thursday. It is the fourth and final meeting at a high school scheduled for closure.
Critics of the administration’s plan for closing high schools encouraged parents to oppose the move at a meeting at Northwest last week. As district leaders consider the proposal, there are reasons to close the school — and to keep it open.
Here are some reasons to keep Northwest open:
- The school has a climbing graduation rate. Over the last two years, it has risen from 62 percent to 75 percent, higher than a few of the district’s other high schools.
- Northwest is on the edge of the district, and if it closes, students who face long bus rides to other IPS high schools may choose to go to township or charter schools instead.
- It serves a community with an unusually high poverty rate — 32 percent — and it is likely that many families don’t have cars, making it difficult for them to get involved at a high school across town.
Here are some reasons Northwest is facing closure:
- Northwest has struggled academically. Although it is not overseen by the state, after persistent low grades it is part of the state-funded transformation zone, which aims to improve struggling schools with an influx of coaching and other resources.
- The likeliest reason the administration recommended closing the high school is its location. Because the administration plan is an all magnet model, where students choose schools based on focus area rather than neighborhood, the district chose to keep all four high schools near the city center. Northwest would be a long commute for students from other areas of the district.
Six schools will open and six will close as the new school year begins next month.
This year’s closures are composed mostly of charter schools. That’s a shift from recent years — about two dozen district-run schools have shuttered since 2012. All of the schools opening are charter schools, bringing the district’s total to 57, which is more than half of the charter schools statewide.
Below is a list of closures and openings Chalkbeat has compiled from Shelby County Schools and the state-run Achievement School District.
- Believe Memphis Academy is a new college preparatory charter school that will focus on literacy while serving students in fourth and fifth grade, with plans to expand to eighth grade.
- Crosstown High School will focus on creating student projects that solve problems of local businesses and organizations. The school will start with 150 ninth-graders and will be housed in a building shared with businesses and apartments in Crosstown Concourse, a renovated Sears warehouse.
- Freedom Preparatory Academy will open its fifth school starting with middle schoolers. It will eventually expand to create the Memphis network’s second high school in the Whitehaven and Nonconnah communities.
- Memphis Business Academy will open an elementary school and a middle school in Hickory Hill. The schools were originally slated to open in 2017, but were delayed to finalize property and financing, CEO Anthony Anderson said.
- Perea Elementary School will focus on emotional health and community supports for families living in poverty. District leaders initially rejected its application, but school board members approved it. They liked the organization’s academic and community work with preschoolers in the same building.
- Alcy Elementary School will be demolished this summer to make room for a new building. It is expected to open in 2020 with students from Charjean and Magnolia elementary schools.
- Du Bois High School of Arts and Technology and Du Bois High School of Leadership and Public Policy will close. The charter network’s founder, Willie Herenton, a former Memphis school superintendent, said in April the schools are closing because of a severe shortage of qualified teachers.
- GRAD Academy, part of the Achievement School District, announced in January the high school would close because the Houston-based charter organization could not sustain it. It was the third school in the district to close since the state-run district started in 2012.
- Legacy Leadership Academy is closing after its first year because the charter organization lost its federal nonprofit status, and enrollment was low.
- Manor Lake Elementary is closing to merge with nearby Geeter Middle School because low enrollment made for extra room in their buildings. The new Geeter K-8 will join eight others in the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone, a neighborhood school improvement program started by Vincent Hunter, the principal of Whitehaven High School.
A Memphis charter school on the brink of closure over the location of its building has signed a lease within Shelby County Schools’ boundaries.
Gateway University High School will move into Holy Nation Church of Memphis on Brownsville Road near Craigmont High School after being in a Memphis suburb since opening in August 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the charter school.
In response, Shelby County Schools will pull its recommendation to revoke the school’s charter, according to the school board’s agenda. The district had called for the school’s closure because of a new state law that prohibits charter schools operating outside of the authorizing district’s limits.
The Tennessee Department of Education gave school leaders until July 1 to comply with an attorney general’s opinion issued in September and to comply with the school’s contract that stated it would operate “within the local school district of Shelby County, Tennessee.” Their previous building was a storefront in Bartlett.
The board was set to vote on the matter Tuesday — five days before the state’s deadline.