Indianapolis homicide detective Harry C. Dunn wants to open a charter school for students of all ages in the heart of Broad Ripple at the soon-to-be-closed high school.
Dunn — who runs a foundation for at-risk youth — says the Broad Ripple High School is the perfect location for a new performing arts-focused school for marginalized students who have struggled at another school.
“This school will not address just the child specifically, but the family as a whole,” Dunn says about those facing homelessness, gang violence and teen pregnancy.
Dunn says the curriculum would take a holistic approach to include physical and mental health supports for students in pre-school to 12th grade. The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County is on board to open a clinic that could include counseling.
“The specific building, Broad Ripple High School, is a very large facility and we want to make sure that we reach the capacity that it deserves and that we can bring in all the community that want to be involved,” Dunn says about the goal of enrolling 1,000 students by 2024.
Dunn and his wife Michelle founded the HIM by HER Foundation. The nonprofit’s name stands for Helping Improve Mankind by Healing Every Race. It was started to help inner-city youth and their families address issues like job training and mentoring. Its programs include an afterschool that aims to persuade students from criminal behavior.
Dunn is seeking a charter for HIM by HER Collegiate School of the Arts from the Indiana Charter School Board.
Monday evening 15 people spoke in support of the plan, including State Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, during a public hearing at the College Avenue Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library.
Bartlett, who is highly critical of charter schools, says there have been at least 10 murders in his district so far this year.
“If we don’t have something like HIM by HER (Collegiate School of the Arts) offering complete wraparound services, those murders continue to escalate,” he says. “I stand here in support of HIM by HER.”
Dunn is working with a group of educators and community members to create the school, according to the school’s application, including Patricia Payne, the former IPS director of multicultural education, and Wanda Riesz, a former IPS administrator. Riesz would be the new school’s principal.
The Indiana Charter School Board is slated to vote on this charter request on May 15.
But there’s much uncertainty about the future of Broad Ripple High School. Indianapolis Public School leaders have said they want to sell the building for at least $6 million to $8 million after it closes this summer to generate much-needed cash.
But state lawmakers have yet to change a rule that blocks public school corporations from selling empty buildings. The law allows charter schools first dibs on buying a vacant schoolhouse for $1 if a building is empty for two years.
Last week IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he would speak with lawmakers during the 2019 General Assembly about allowing the sale of the building.
Dunn says he has potential funders that will help him buy the building from Indianapolis Public Schools after it closes this summer.
If that doesn’t work out, Dunn says, there are other options in the city for the school, such as the soon-to-be-closed John Marshall High School.
Other charter operators are also interested in Broad Ripple High School.
Purdue Polytechnic, Purdue University’s charter school, has filed a request to open a second school and Broad Ripple is the selected location. The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office will have a hearing in late June on the application.
Broad Ripple’s arts program will be relocated to Shortridge High School starting in the 2018-19 school year.