Jefferson County Public Schools broke ground Monday on the West End’s first new elementary school in more than 20 years.
The school, which has yet to be named, will be connected to the West Louisville YMCA at 17th Street and Broadway, and will serve up to 650 students in grades K-5 in areas currently zoned for Roosevelt-Perry Elementary and Phillis Wheatley Elementary.
At the groundbreaking ceremony Monday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the new, modern building will be a much needed change for West End students, especially those who attend Wheatley.
“Just imagine what it’s going to be like on day one for these young people to walk into this brand new school building, after they’ve been in a school building that probably needed to be condemned several decades ago,” Pollio said.
Officials say the new school, approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education in 2019, will cost $28 million, and share a gym with the West Louisville YMCA. The YMCA will provide wraparound services to students.
“It’s not just to share space, but share the care, nurturing and education of the children and families that show up here,” YMCA of Greater Louisville CEO Steve Tarver said.
The build will echo the district’s previous collaboration with the YMCA at Norton Commons Elementary school, which opened in 2016. Some West End parents have been frustrated that the Norton Commons school, located in a majority white, wealthy area, was completed before the West End school, which will serve majority Black and low-income students.
Pollio said the project is part of the district’s broader plan to invest in facilities, especially in the West End.
“There has been a lack of investment in our facilities all across this community,” he said. “But the most stark problem we have had is a lack of investment here in west Louisville. And that ends today.”
The last elementary school built in the West End was Foster Elementary, completed in 2000. The last middle or high school built in the West End was the “new” Central High School, which broke ground in 1952.
“‘The time is always right to do what is right,’” District 1 board member Diane Porter said, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. “This is, indeed, the right time to do the right thing for our students.”
The new school will have 28 classrooms and cover nearly 80,000 square feet. JCPS Chief Operating Officer Chris Perkins said the building will be organized around a large lobby and flanking cafeteria. The design includes wide hallways and lots of windows to allow sunlight into classrooms.
Perkins said the building will be energy efficient, with a “cool roof,” geothermal heating and cooling and LED lights throughout.
The plans were exciting to Phillis Wheatley third grader De’onna Miller, who will be in fifth grade when the building is expected to open in 2023.
“I want a classroom with bright windows and lots of friends and lots of teachers, and computers—new computers,” she said.
“I can’t wait to go there,” her second-grade schoolmate Harmoni Burt said.
The facility for Roosevelt-Perry Elementary will continue to be used by Grace James Academy of Excellence, a school for girls in grades 6-12 with an Afrocentric curriculum. Officials say there aren’t plans yet for the Wheatley facility.