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The Details Parents At Indianapolis Takeover Schools Have Been Waiting For

A video of a high school football game looped in the background as Charter Schools USA staff spoke to a small group of parents and staff from Emmerich Manual High School and Emma Donna Middle School. Charter Schools USA will take over the schools, labeled as failing by the state, next year.

Indianapolis parents say they’re finally hearing some of the answers they’ve been seeking about what activities the charter school company taking over Emmerich Manual High School next year will offer.

Manual will have a football program again next year, Jon Hage, president and CEO of takeover company Charter Schools USA, told about two dozen people at a community meeting Monday night. He also listed other programs rumored to be leaving the school that will remain or be reconstituted next year.

But are the announcements coming too late? Indianapolis Public Schools has set a Thursday deadline for applications to the district’s magnet schools, and until now, a lack of details about academic and extracurricular offerings at the four schools subject to takeover has left families in limbo.

Jon Hage, Charter Schools USA president and CEO

Manual parents said Monday’s meeting was the first time they had heard Charter Schools USA staff use such definitive language in describing the programs the school would offer post-takeover — not “we’ll try” but “we will,” as one parent put it.

“Every parent question is a fair question,” Hage told StateImpact, adding the takeover process isn’t easy or perfect. “We’re going to trust that parents will make decisions based on good, educated, consumer-like knowledge of what’s best in the school, what’s best in the student.”

Manual parent Shelly Breeding says making those decisions has been difficult, given rumors students hear about IPS taking equipment from the school.

“They are hearing that all of their programs and equipment will be going away, everything is moving to [Arsenal] Tech High School,” Breeding says — ‘everything,’ referring to welding equipment and library materials.

As the Indianapolis Star has reported, IPS denies these rumors. Manual’s welding and ROTC equipment will stay, district officials say. Whether the ROTC program, which is almost as old as Manual itself, will remain is still up in the air.

Hage and Charter Schools USA staff highlighted several offerings at “the new Manual”:

  • Football. The district cut the school’s struggling program in 2009.
  • Arts, including music and drama.
  • Academies. The school will follow the academy model, which embraces hands-on, project-based learning, organized around student interest areas.
  • Science & Agriculture Extracurriculars. A retired Eli Lilly employee has resigned from the advisory board at Manual’s current FFA-like program, called STAR Academy — which IPS is moving to Arsenal Tech — in order to reconstitute the group at Manual next year.

Charter Schools USA will take over three schools from the Indianapolis Public Schools next year — Manual, Thomas Carr Howe High School, and Emma Donnan Middle School.

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