Principal Richard Benberry stood exterior of Broad Ripple Excessive College on Monday within the rain, propping up a banner to establish the college’s newest non permanent tenant: Purdue Polytechnic Excessive College. 

The primary day of faculty for Indianapolis Public Faculties introduced new life to the building, which has not hosted college students because the district closed the school after the 2017-18 school year.

“It’s an enormous house for lots of scholars,” Benberry mentioned, standing in his workplace amid the bustle of scholars heard within the hallway. “I imply, we have been as much as 311 as of yesterday’s depend.” 

The brand new house is a reduction for the constitution college’s north campus, which plans to make use of the third ground of Broad Ripple Excessive College this 12 months whereas its everlasting house is constructed simply down the road. 

However the story of Purdue Polytechnic Excessive College’s progress coincides additionally with the story of IPS’ shrinking enrollment.

A staff member stands in the doorway next to a long line of high school students.

Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat

Since opening its first Englewood campus in 2017, Purdue Polytechnic has grown from simply 140 freshmen to over 600 college students on that campus alone, Govt Director Scott Bess mentioned. The north campus at Broad Ripple Excessive College, in the meantime, struck a take care of IPS to make use of the constructing this 12 months — extra room for the college to develop.

As Benberry catches his breath, a mom walks into his workplace, youngsters in tow. 

“New household,” he mutters as he walks over to welcome her. 

This 12 months, the constitution college — a part of the IPS Innovation Community — welcomes its greatest freshman class to its north campus. IPS neighborhood colleges, in the meantime, had just below 19,000 college students enrolled as of Monday — a determine that has been on the decline.

Scholar enrollment at neighborhood, district-run colleges has dropped roughly 33% since 2015-16 — when Innovation colleges started — to final college 12 months, based on district knowledge introduced in October. 

Superintendent Aleesia Johnson mentioned on Monday that she expects total enrollment to carry regular from final 12 months, though last figures gained’t come till later. Final college 12 months, district-run neighborhood colleges had 18,777 college students.

Nonetheless, enrollment in conventional neighborhood colleges stays one of many district’s biggest challenges because it begins a brand new 12 months, along with the same old problem of staffing vacancies. Declining enrollment is a problem not solely to Indianapolis, but in addition to urban school districts nationwide that still are dealing with the pandemic’s effects.

Enrollment is a key part of the district’s Rebuilding Stronger initiative, a broad-reaching effort that would reconfigure district colleges. 

“Part of that effort is about attempting to find out a method to replicate the circumstances we create in our alternative colleges in our neighborhood colleges,” Johnson mentioned. 

The brand new college 12 months additionally represents the primary conventional return to school rooms because the pandemic struck in 2020 — no masks, no remoted studying whereas hunkered down at residence.

“That’s the hope, that we’ll really feel extra regular,” Johnson mentioned. “I’ve been framing it as simply much less disrupted and extra fixed, is the hope for the 12 months forward.”

For college kids at Purdue Polytechnic Excessive College, the brand new 12 months brings contemporary air in additional methods than one: at 25,000 sq. ft, the third ground of the highschool gives practically twice as a lot house as the college’s authentic location at 1405 Broad Ripple Ave. 

Plus, the primary maskless, in-person college begin additionally brings reduction. 

“It’s like you’ll be able to breathe once more,” mentioned Jayden Barney, a junior who began highschool in the course of the pandemic. “A weight lifted off of your soul.”

 Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County colleges for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org.





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