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Welcome to the Indianapolis Public Schools digital archive. Here you can find over 160 years of history, and everything from photographs and administrator biographies to school directories and newsletters.


Early Years (1850s-1910s)

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) has been an important public institution throughout the history of Indianapolis and central Indiana. Since its incorporation in 1853, IPS has shaped — and been shaped by — the residents and communities that turned Indianapolis from a small settlement at the mouth of the White River to the vibrant urban center that it is today. Within this collection are materials that detail those early years including 1880s Registers of Children and 100 year anniversary histories of individual schools. Photographs of schools and the students they served give a glimpse into the early years of IPS.


Expansion (1920s-1960s)

During the decades of the 1920s to the 1960s, IPS experienced a wave of expansion due to population growth in Indianapolis. Eight new high schools and many more elementary schools were added during this time. Their creation and success can be traced through the rich collection of educational newsletters produced by IPS departments, construction and payroll logs, and in the collections of Broad Ripple, George Washington, Crispus Attucks, Thomas Carr Howe, Harry E. Wood, Arlington, Northwest, and John Marshall high schools. At its peak enrollment in 1969, the district served nearly 109,000 students.


Population Shift (1970s-2000s)

Beginning in the 1970s and into the 1980s, suburban growth and changing demographic patterns resulted in a population shift away from the urban core that resulted in a declining student population within IPS. Beginning with Harry E. Wood High School in 1978, long established schools began to close their doors. Shortridge High School soon followed suit in 1981, with John Marshall High School closing in 1987, Crispus Attucks High School in 1986, and George Washington and Thomas Carr Howe High Schools in 1995. While all but Wood High School eventually reopened, this was a challenging period in IPS’ history. By the mid-2000s, IPS enrollment stabilized around 30,000 students, down by over 70% from peak enrollment in the late 1960s. The challenges of declining enrollment, demographic shifts, and racial integration of schools faced by IPS during this period can be found in Minute Books of the Board of School Commissioners, Resolutions, and various departmental publications.


Restructuring (2010s)

By 2018, IPS had announced further high school closures in order to consolidate school facilities and increase academic opportunities available to students. Of the original 11 high schools, four remained: Shortridge, Arsenal Technical, Crispus Attucks, and George Washington. In addition to school closures, several historic operational facilities were sold. These included the former Coca-Cola bottling plant and Service Center for Indianapolis Public Schools (SCIPS) on Massachusetts Avenue, the Facilities Management Department (FMD) in the old Polk Milk building on 16th Street, and two warehouses on Southeastern Avenue.


Through a Civil War that threatened to tear the nation apart, a Reconstruction that attempted to rebuild it, two World Wars and a Great Depression; during the political movements of the 1960s and 1970s that forced society to confront the racial injustices infused in our institutions and systems, and in the midst of a digital revolution drastically altering our economy and society, Indianapolis Public Schools has carried out its charge to educate students to succeed in an ever-changing world. The histories written and legacies preserved within this archive serve as a reminder of the important role that Indianapolis Public Schools plays in shaping the future of the city and students it serves.


Made possible by Lilly Endowment Inc., through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.

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