- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indianapolis Public Schools would close three of its seven high schools under recommendations released Wednesday in response to decades of enrollment declines in what was for decades the state’s largest school district.

The proposal from district administrators calls for converting Arlington and Northwest high schools into middle schools starting the 2018-19 school year and selling or leasing the Broad Ripple High School property.

A task force report in April advocated the action because the district now has about 5,000 high school students in buildings designed for nearly 15,000. The closings are estimated to save $7 million a year.

District Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the expected savings would be directed toward improving programs, with the remaining high schools all having designated career themes such as health sciences, teaching, construction trades or information technology.

The proposal would keep open Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington high schools, even though those buildings will only be around two-thirds full. District officials said factors such as the central location of those schools and their operating costs were considered.

“If you don’t make tough decisions to deal with your finances, the state and Legislature will make those for you,” Ferebee said.

Presentation of the proposal to the district’s board is set for Thursday, with a vote on it possible in September.

About 50 protesters gathered outside the district’s headquarters Tuesday evening, saying the decision is being rushed.

“It appears that we’re just going to close three schools and walk away without evaluating the impact on the community,” said David Greene of the IPS Community Coalition.

The Indianapolis district had more than 100,000 students in the early 1970s. It had nearly 29,000 students this past year, which was down about 8,000 students from a decade earlier. The Fort Wayne Community Schools is now the state’s largest district.

The Indy Chamber business group called the decision to close high schools a necessary step to address financial concerns.

“We have to face facts - IPS high schools are underutilized, significant deficits still loom, and no one wants to cut important academic programs,” said Mark Fisher, the group’s chief policy officer.

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