Was it a failing school? Was it an underperforming school? Was it a bad school?
These are the questions that many ask when they hear about a school that is closing. The answer to those questions is more complex than people would think. The easy answer would be to say … Yes. If they are closing, then yes, they must have been a failing school. If they are closing, then yes, they must have been an underperforming school. If they are closing, then yes, they must have been a bad school. I caution jumping to the easy answer of yes. There is a lot that can be learned from a school closing.
It was December 27, 2022, two days after Christmas, and for many educators, only a week into the winter break. The winter break and holiday season were supposed to be a time of celebration, spending time with family, and joyous and even restful. For the students, families, educators, and the community surrounding 4501 E. 32nd school, news broke that the school would be closing its doors. What was even more disheartening was that not only was the school, Him By Her Collegiate School for the Arts, closing its doors, but it would be closing in less than a month. It was like an eviction notice on your house, a disconnection notice of your light bill, or even a pink slip from a job. It was a punch to the gut. It was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that is public education in America for Black children.
There will no doubt be many speculations on why the school is closing. The official announcement from the school to families stated the school was closing due to enrollment. The school’s current enrollment could not offset the cost of the building. The school building is a historic building in the city. It once housed a swimming pool and was closed to students in 2007. In recent years, it was converted into a school again and used as an administrative building. The current school had plans to reopen the pool with the help of donations.
So, what can we learn from this situation?
The simplest definition for market saturation is when the volume of a product or service in a marketplace has been maximized. Many may not want to hear this, but the need for more schools in Indianapolis has reached its limits. Right now, you can drive down most streets on the east side and far east side of Indianapolis, and you will pass multiple schools. These schools are in buildings that once held 600 to 700 students and now house between 300-500 students. The reason is within one neighborhood or even a 10-mile radius, you can have 4-5 different schools. The number of schools does not match the number of students who will attend those schools.
Improvement over Increase
Right now, there is too much of a focus for some indivduals to increase their portfolio. They want to increase their power or their standing in the profession. To be frank, they want to increase the revenue in their pockets. I believe the need to increase their portfolio, power, standing, and pockets is being done on the backs of Black children and the Black community. The focus should be on improving the schools we have. If schools occupy less than 85% capacity, why not try a model of sharing space? At least that will still provide the option of choice while allowing both schools to keep the lights on and the doors open. Instead of putting money into opening a new school down the street from three other struggling schools, let’s put that money into the schools that currently have students and teachers. The latest school closing can help us learn how much more critical improvement is over increase.
The Impact Lingers
When a school closes within 3-5 years of opening, it impacts families. The impact is more harmful than many even know at the moment; it can linger for generations and generations. When a school closes, it impacts not only the students, families, and teachers at that school but the community surrounding the school. A closed school in a community or neighborhood turns into a sore eye. It is like any abandoned building. It brings trouble and unwanted activity. In many cases, the school that closes is in a Black community. It has people wondering if this is another example of systematic racism, the inequities that are Black education in America, and just overall bad faith for public education.
When we close schools that were most certainly not perfect, we are closing the hopes and dreams of the families who took a risk and sent their children. It impacts the teachers who took a risk to work in an experimental model. This is another example of the ongoing fight for many to find the true American dream through what should be the ultimate equalizer … education.