By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
Manual is one of two high schools not included in Indianapolis Public Schools’ steps to close four high schools, beginning next year.
Emmerich Manual and Thomas Carr Howe are under Indiana State Board of Education mandates and operated by Charter Schools USA, whose contract at Howe goes through 2017-18, Manual through 2919-20. IPS owns the property but provides no academic or other services at those schools.
Issued September 2016, the IPS Facilities Utilization Task Force report did not consider Howe or Manual. However, the report recommended that the Manual buildings not be operated as high schools, if returned to IPS control. The report did not predict what actions the state board would take when the charter contract ends.
Several meetings were held earlier this year to discuss high school closures, including the final meeting recently at Garfield Park.
IPS administration plans to announce the schools for closure Thursday. The school board will hold meetings in July and August at each high school recommended for closure, with a final vote Sept. 28.
Options for Manual, the city’s oldest high school, would be to continue under the charter or under another charter but through the Indianapolis Mayor’s Charter School Board. Manual has risen above its failing status with a D ranking in 2013-14 and D+ ranking last year. CSUSA came in with the 2012-13 school year as enrollment fell to 466.
Manual alumni Gordon K. Durnil and Alumni Association President Mary Hughes Glover are against any return to IPS, noting that the school’s future lies as a charter institution.
“IPS has no authority over Manual, Howe, Arlington and Emma Donan,” said Durnil, a state political leader/attorney and 1954 Manual graduate. “As IPS schools are emptying out, Manual is growing.”
He predicted that if Washington High is closed, many of those students would attend Manual, which would enhance the school’s charter status.
“The report you have from IPS is based on a presumption that the takeover schools might be returned to IPS whenever the State Board of Education gives up its control,” said Durnil, Manual’s 2000 Alumni of the Year. “Even though the current decision by the board is that the schools would be transferred to the authority of the mayor.”
Glover said that alumni were not concerned about the task force’s meetings because Manual was not in its discussions because of its state status.
“It would be disgraceful if Manual fell back into IPS hands,” Glover firmly said. “Manual (as a charter school) has done a good job with all the students. It would be hard to close Manual.”
“Parents, alumni and Southsiders as a whole are pleased to see the academic results at Manual,” Durnil stressed. “Manual is in a pattern of growth that IPS will not be able to maintain.”
Durnil emphasized that the school has a graduation rate above 80 percent and nearing the state average, but only 39 percent under IPS.
Charter Schools USA, administrators and faculty have emphasized discipline, introduced a credit recovery system, retention and expansion of JROTC and music plus improvements in athletics.
Manual has a proud history since its founding as Industrial Training School in 1895. In 1916 it was renamed Charles E. Emmerich Manual Training School and adopted its current name in 1966. The school’s existing site at Madison Avenue and Pleasant Run Parkway opened in 1953 with 1,734 students. A $26 million improvement and expansion program was completed in 2007.