Education

A JCPS committee has voted to move forward a proposal that would give students who live in the West End and downtown Louisville the choice to attend a nearby middle school or high school. This is one step in what will likely be a lengthy process to potentially revise the district’s student assignment plan to give students who live in those neighborhoods a local school option.

The Student Assignment Review Committee voted Tuesday night to send the proposal to the school board for review during one of their upcoming work sessions. JCPS spokeswoman Renee Murphy said the district will also prepare a request for proposals to contract a consultant to study the plan; the school board would have to approve any contract for a consultant. District officials also plan to bring the idea to community meetings to get input. Murphy said the details of the timeline for those steps is not set.

This is the third time the committee has discussed the proposal before Tuesday’s vote to send it before the school board.

Superintendent Marty Pollio emphasized that this vote will not be the final word on the subject, but merely a first step.

“You’re not saying all the questions are answered, I’m good with this 100 percent, let’s vote on it. What we’re asking is, do we take this outside of this task force?” Pollio advised the committee before members took a vote.

Currently, students who live in so-called “satellite reside areas” — concentrated in the West End and downtown — are assigned to middle and high schools across the county unless they apply to attend and are accepted at a magnet school. The proposal would affect more than 3,800 students in middle and high school; it would give them two reside schools to choose from, including one closer to their home.

Pollio said to make that possible, the district would have to build a new middle school in the West End and expand the capacity at the Academy at Shawnee to accept more students. The Academy at Shawnee is already slated for renovations to reopen its condemned third floor, under the district’s new facility plan approved this spring.

Angela Bowens, a parent, was the only committee member who did not approve the proposal.

“It’s not a bad proposal, but the thing I worry most about is that when you start building around the [West End] community, putting [local students] back into the schools, what’s the difference between segregation?” Bowens said. “You’re going backward — I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen.”

Bowens said she’s also concerned about whether the district will have enough funding to pour more resources into those west Louisville schools if they begin to have a higher concentration of students in poverty.

Pollio addressed the need for distributing more resources to schools in the satellite areas if the proposal ultimately passes. He compared the district’s funding to a bucket of resources.

“To increase resources for one school, you have two options,” Pollio said. “We have to take it from somewhere else in the bucket … or, make that bucket bigger.”

In recent work sessions, the JCPS school board has begun discussing its options for raising a variety of local taxes to support the schools, which would essentially make that bucket bigger.

 

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.