Education

The Jefferson County Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to improve the district’s alternative schools that does not include a merger of two high schools, following public criticism of that proposal. Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district will revisit the issue of how to reconfigure its alternative schools next year, so that in the future middle school and high school students at one JCPS alternative school are no longer housed in the same building.

Earlier discussions of the district’s now-approved facilities plan included a proposal to merge the high school students from Minor Daniels Academy and Breckinridge Metropolitan High School into one facility, and to house only middle school-aged students at Minor Daniels Academy. Minor Daniels currently serves students in grades 6 through 12.

“I’m thankful that our Board heard all voices and decided to rethink the idea,” said Breckinridge Metropolitan High School math teacher Kumar Rashad, after hearing that the merger had been abandoned.

Rashad and others have spoken out against the merger at past school board meetings, citing concerns that it would further concentrate poverty and exacerbate behavior issues by bringing together rival gang members in the same building.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the JCPS board also considered a report on other proposals to improve alternative schools including:

  • Revising the intake process for students admitted to alternative schools
  • Adding mental health staff to alternative schools
  • Improving the transition process as students exit an alternative school
  • Implementing a new instructional strategy developed by Big Picture Learning

“I want to compliment you on what I see as a much more progressive and robust plan for shaping our alternative schools,” Board member Corrie Shull told JCPS Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman as she completed the presentation.

Board members Benjamin Gies and Chris Brady voiced concerns about the fact that Minor Daniels Academy houses middle- and high school students in the same building —  something the Board had hoped to address this year.

“I don’t see how really we get away with lumping our alternative school students all into one setting, when we have perhaps our most troubled 11 year-old in the same building with our most troubled 18 year-old,” Gies said.

Gies asked if the Board would consider separating those age groups at a later phase in the alternative school planning process.

“It is our long term goal, yes,” Pollio responded. “We’re going to bring something earlier to you next year. We did work it through this entire school year.”

Brady said he is worried that delay will keep the district from fulfilling its Corrective Action Plan by 2020, in order to avoid another state takeover. Brady said JCPS does not have enough room at its alternative schools to comply with federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regulations, to accommodate programs for students, nor to take in all students that would be assigned to an alternative school if not for limited space.

“I have serious concerns about going forward with this, but at the same time, though, I know that without another facility, you’re making do with what you have,” Brady said.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Board also approved its budget priorities for the 2019-2020 school year and heard an update on the district’s progress on its Corrective Action Plan that Pollio previously reported to the Kentucky Board of Education.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.