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Our History

Riverside High School was founded in 2017 as the second campus of Herron High School (HHS), one of the nation’s highest-performing public high schools. After a very successful first year, Riverside now serves 290 freshman students at the historic former Heslar Naval Armory.

Riverside High School is a true replication of the award-winning model established at Herron High School. Riverside was created in response to the overwhelming demand for enrollment slots at HHS and the need for high-quality high school options within Indianapolis’ urban core. Riverside holds a charter from the City of Indianapolis Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation, which was awarded by a unanimous vote of the Indianapolis Charter School Board in 2015.

Riverside High School and Herron High School are both members of Indianapolis Classical Schools, the network formed by the leadership that founded and led Herron High School.

The concept for Herron High School originated in 2003 under the leadership of Joanna Beatty Taft, Executive Director of the Harrison Center for the Arts. Recognizing the need for high quality, tuition-free public education located within the city’s urban neighborhoods, Ms. Taft brought together local residents, educators, non-profit organizations and business leaders to create an original structure for a classical, liberal arts education.

Herron High School’s founding board believed it was essential to bring the very best educators to the table during the development phase of the school. Beginning with Robert Marzano’s concept of designing curriculum “with the end in mind,” and guided by best practices in the classroom, the founders’ vision of a well-educated, world-class citizen helped define the rigorous curriculum, classical format and cultural foundation for the school. The development of the art history timeline as an organizational structure was a creative approach to the challenge of engaging students from diverse backgrounds.

From its inception, the vision for Herron High School was focused on the adaptive potential of the vacant former John Herron Art Institute campus. For many decades, these historically important buildings were the centerpiece of the art movement in Indianapolis. Herron High School’s founders believed the rebirth of the historic campus as a center of learning would provide an anchor for the community landscape and honor the heritage of the buildings. Steeped in the cultural history of the city and imbued with the great creative talents of past generations, these buildings are once again host to a new generation of students.

True to the founders’ vision, and through the leadership of Janet H. McNeal, Head of School, Herron High School has rapidly become one of the top public high schools in the country. Designated a 4 Star School by the Indiana Department of Education, and appearing on lists of the nation’s best public high schools in Newsweek, U.S. News and the Washington Post, Herron High School provides an exemplary education.

After its first year, Riverside High School is on a path to achieve the same standard of excellence as Herron High School. On one nationally-normed assessment, Riverside students outperformed the national average by 33 percent in math and nearly 50 percent in reading. Riverside will add a new class of freshman students each year until it is fully enrolled with students in grades 9-12 during the 2020-21 school year.