Education

Under a proposal unveiled Monday, the winners of Jefferson County Public Schools’ School of Innovation competition would go into two existing district buildings—Maupin Elementary near the Parkland neighborhood and the former Myers Middle off Klondike Lane.

In August, the Jefferson County Board of Education chose two winners of the months-long competition, in which the school district asked community members to submit ideas for new and innovative schools. The Catalpa School would incorporate “Waldorf-style education.” The Reach Academy would include year-round school from kindergarten to eighth grade, plus other services.

During a special work session, JCPS administrators recommended the Catalpa School  be located at what is currently Maupin Elementary.

The proposal for the Louisville Reach Academy was multifaceted. District officials proposed moving the Louisville Reach Academy into the former Myers building—but the plan would also include relocating Klondike Elementary. JCPS closed Myers Middle earlier this year.

Students currently attending Klondike Elementary would be able to move to the Myers building and begin learning under the Reach design. The students currently enrolled in the Phoenix School of Discovery—which is now housed in the Myers building—and students in some Early Childhood Education classes would be relocated to the current Klondike Elementary facility.

There are just about 200 students currently enrolled in the Phoenix School of Discovery.

“We just feel they would be better accommodated at the Klondike building,” said Michael Raisor, the district’s chief academic officer.

He added that the Klondike building does not have the space or facilities to accommodate the projected student population of the Louisville Reach Academy, which will be the district’s first K-8 school design. 

The Myers building can hold a student population of 1,010,  according to JCPS data.

Raisor said a “cross functional task force” has already been assembled to help address “operational areas” that will need reworking in order to get the schools ready to open in the 2015-2016 school year.

“We need to develop the staffing protocols and really finalize things so we can get up and running by August 15,” Raisor said.

He added that “minor” renovations would be required at both the Myers building and the current Klondike building to accommodate the changing student populations.

The Phoenix School of Discovery, which is heavily reliant on technology and virtual learning, can easily be adapted to nearly any school facility, Raisor said.

The population of the area surrounding Myers is also consistent with the student populations the Louisville Reach Academy seeks to enroll, Raisor said. Nearly 80 percent of the students within that area are classified as free and reduced lunch recipients.

And the Myers location is “centrally located in the county,” which is a positive attribute for a school that looks to add community resources into the school environment, Raisor said.

Raisor said Klondike’s current principal, Mark Boyer, has expressed support of merging into the Louisville Reach Academy. The designers of the Louisville Reach Academy concept are currently teachers at Klondike Elementary.

As for the Catalpa School, Raisor said Maupin Elementary has “adequate space” to accommodate the projected 675 students that will attend the school, which was designed using Waldorf concepts. The Waldorf magnet program currently at Byck Elementary will be phased out, Raisor said.

By ending the Waldorf program at Byck, district officials believe enough students will enroll in the Catalpa program at Maupin to enable a full school roll out, as opposed to the grade-by-grade phase-in that was proposed in August.

He said the “copious amount of space” at the Maupin site will suit the school concept that calls for some learning to come through playground exploration and “sensory rooms.”

Raisor said the high population of students in the area on free or reduced meal plans fits the Catalpa’s concept design.

The location is already included in district transportation routes, and using the Maupin site will also help alleviate cluster congestion in cluster schools like St. Matthews, Hawthorne and Bloom, Raisor said.

The Maupin site is located on Catalpa Street, an attribute that Raisor said was completely “random” to the district’s proposal.

David Jones Jr., a board member representing District 3, said he doesn’t want district officials to get caught up with the logistics of the concept development and forget about the need and the responsibility to make both schools innovative.

“I want to be crystal clear: I want to see two innovative schools come out of this,” he said. “They have got to have homes, but they have got to be new schools.”

The Board of Education is expected to approve locations for both schools at its September 22 meeting.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.