Education

After years of deliberation, the Jefferson County Board of Education is planning to vote Wednesday on a proposal to overhaul the district’s student assignment plan.

For decades, the current plan has allowed Jefferson County Public Schools to maintain a level of integration in a segregated city. Research shows it’s improved Black students’ access to resources and led to better outcomes. 

But there’s also a cost: many Black students have to travel across town for school, while most white students have the option to stay close to home. Some West End families say that’s unfair. 

JCPS was created by a federal desegregation order in 1975, when a federal judge ordered the majority-white county school system to merge with the more diverse city school system. At first, busing went both ways: white students were sent to historically Black schools in the West End, and Black students were sent to historically white schools in the East and South. But in 1984, the district bowed to pressure from white families and ended mandatory busing for children in majority-white areas. Since then, the onus of integration has fallen mostly on the backs of Black students in the West End and downtown areas.

The heart of the new proposal, called “dual resides,” would allow West End students to attend a school closer to home or go to a school in the suburbs to the East and South. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio often says “dual resides” would give Black families the “choice” to stay in their neighborhood, something many white students already have.

The proposal also calls for more resources for the West End. The district’s decades-long policy of moving students out of the West End meant JCPS put little investment into school facilities there. The proposal will require JCPS to build a new middle school in west Louisville, though officials have not yet found a site.

But critics worry about the resegregation the plan will bring.

The vote is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Vanhoose Education Center.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.