Education

Last year, we reported on the importance of parental involvement in the Jefferson County Public Schools choice system, in which parents can shop around and apply for schools.

We found that the system can offer families an opportunity to find a school that fits their child’s needs—but it can also bring the type of anxiety that more associated with future college freshmen than incoming kindergartners.

That was the perspective last year of Louisville parent Laura Scheuer Sutton, who was looking for the right school for her son, Dash.

“Obviously, I don’t know what it’s like to have a child applying to college yet, but, to me, in some ways it almost feels more fraught because my son isn’t quite ready at this point to tell me precisely what he wants and what he’s looking for in same the way an 18-year-old at least has, hopefully, some concept of what they’re looking for and what they would enjoy.”

The elementary school selection process has begun anew. On Saturday, JCPS will host its Showcase of Elementary Schools—thousands of parents are expected to visit teachers and principals at booths in the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The gist of the process is that parents gather information at schools—through the mailed literature, the Showcase, school visits and more—and rank schools. They can generally choose from schools in their regional “cluster” or magnet schools. JCPS uses the families’ rankings to assign schools.

We checked back in with Sutton a year later to learn her takeaways from the JCPS student assignment process.

Sutton’s child, Dash, chose Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts Schools on Main Street. And that’s where Dash is now a kindergartners.

“This was the place [Lincoln] when we asked him, ‘Do you like this place? Does this seem good?’ He said, ‘Yes, I want to go here,’” Sutton said this week.

(Go here to see our story last year, when we first meet Sutton.)

Now that she’s been through the student assignment process, Sutton said she believes the Showcase of Schools is really just the first stop.

Her top recommendation for parents who’ll be looking for new schools next year: go on school tours.

“There is no substitute,” she said.

Along with Lincoln Elementary, Sutton also toured Bloom and Brandeis elementary schools.

But Lincoln just felt right, she said. Sutton liked the campus and facilities unique to Lincoln and its performing arts mission. One of the first things she noticed was the mood and atmosphere of the building, she said.

“Everything had that bright, airy open quality,” said Sutton. “In one school it felt like it was going to be a square peg in a round hole. And in the other school he looked at us and said this is what I want.”

Sutton also looked at Bloom Elementary—a school in the family’s regional elementary school cluster group. (Here’s some explanation of what the elementary clusters are and how the system works.)

But the family had to decide whether to attend the magnet program before they’d learn if Dash had been accepted to their preferred cluster school, Sutton said.

If they passed on the magnet, the family risked Dash losing out on placement in any of the schools they preferred.

The big takeaway: go to the showcase but definitely check out the school. And be mindful of the deadlines, remembering that the process may lead to difficult decisions.

The showcase is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Kentucky International Convention Center on Fourth Street.

The application period for elementary schools starts Saturday and ends Jan. 9.