INDIANAPOLIS — With just weeks until Indianapolis Public Schools plans to release a draft of its "Rebuilding Stronger" plan, families are sharing their thoughts.
A recent survey asked IPS families to weigh in on a few key issues up for discussion this fall. It was organized by RISE INDY, a local nonprofit working within IPS to improve public schools for all families.
Jennifer Chartier, who works with RISE INDY, explained the survey was created over the summer to give voice to all IPS families.
"That is so important, even when the outcome is maybe something that the family doesn't like that they feel like their voice was a part of the process," Chartier said.
Organizers reported more than 225 families responded to the nonscientific survey.
Results show two main issues gained overall, general support, according to Chartier, including eliminating priority boundaries.
"Right now, if you live within half a mile of a choice school in IPS, you get priority over other families to attend that," she said.
More than 75% of surveyed families said they would support or strongly support IPS removing those priority boundaries.
Other survey results shows large support for replicating high-quality schooling options for all families.
"What families define as high-quality may not be test score-related," said Chartier.
Some families referred to "high quality" as a school where their child was valued. Others described "high quality" as high test scores and letter grades.
Chartier believes there needs to be a conversation with school leaders about what "high quality" means, especially for Black and brown communities.
When it comes to shifting to a middle school model, survey results are more varied, with 52% of families supporting the idea of moving to K-5 and 6-8 schools, rather than K-8. Nearly a third of families, though, said they would oppose the idea.
"Realistically speaking, that is something I think the district may have to do, just because a lot of those K-8 schools are over-subscribed, and they have too many kids in there " Chartier said. "Also, if you look around at the townships and the surrounding counties, the middle school model is kind of the prevailing model right now."
Another topic on the table is consolidating some schools to make better use of facilities.
"There is definitely a fierce urgency of 'now' in some of these buildings," Chartier said.
RISE INDY gave all of the survey results to IPS leaders, who have also surveyed families, according to Chartier.
In response to RISE INDY's survey, IPS officials shared the following statement with 13News:
“The results of the survey conducted by RISE INDY on the IPS Rebuilding Stronger initiative is comparable to what our community said was important during a series of community meetings the district has held over the last year. Using feedback from stakeholders, IPS is developing a draft of our plan to be released Sept. 13, followed by a series of community feedback opportunities through meetings and surveys. The results of the RISE Indy study verifies that what we’re hearing in the community is consistent with what our stakeholders are telling us that they want.”
"IPS has lost tens of thousands of students over the last three decades," Chartier said. "Those kids just aren't in the district for whatever reason. Did they go to the townships? Did they choose different schooling types? These are really hard decisions that have to be made. There is an upside on the other side, which is if the district can right-size, if the district can really put a focus on equity, then it's going to be providing a better education for the families who are in IPS."
IPS plans to release a draft of its "Rebuilding Stronger" plan on Sept. 13.
Chartier indicated that the district will host listening sessions for about two months after that. During that time, RISE INDY will work to connect IPS families with opportunities to share feedback.
"As this plan is released next month, we really hope to connect a lot of the families in the schools that we organize in and families in all different schooling types to the plan so that they can give feedback," Chartier said.
Then, a final vote on the plan is expected in November, according to Chartier.
"I hope families, the district, everyone who is involved here can show grace throughout this process," she said. "This is hard stuff. It's really difficult."