Education

Students who live in the West End of Louisville could get more choices in where they go to middle and high school, under a preliminary proposal under discussion by a JCPS task force, that could once again rewrite the school district’s desegregration policy. 

Under JCPS’s current student assignment plan, many students in west Louisville neighborhoods are bused out to schools across the county. The system creates more diverse schools, but it also means many of the mostly African-American students in these neighborhoods sometimes don’t have the option of attending a school near their home, as do students who live in other parts of the county.

JCPS has brought together a task force of parents and school administrators to reconsider the student assignment plan. They’ve been working for months, and Tuesday night, they discussed a proposal to give students in some of these so-called “satellite areas” a choice between two “reside” schools, with one near their home. 

JCPS

This map shows the neighborhood boundaries of JCPS high schools. Students who live in neighborhoods in Louisville’s downtown and west end are designated to schools farther out in the county.

“It’s providing choice to students that have not had choice before,” Superintendent Marty Pollio said of the proposal.

As a former principal of Doss High School, Pollio said he knew some of his students lived within blocks of The Academy @ Shawnee in the West End, but rode the bus to Doss on Louisville’s southwest side. Tuesday night, Pollio presented the Student Assignment Advisory Review Committee a proposal to give students who live in satellite areas two schools to choose from, with one near their home, before students rank their preferences among a slate of other schools.

It is not the first time the student assignment review committee has discussed the possibility, as first reported by WDRB, but Tuesday night’s meeting was a chance to delve a little more deeply into the pros, cons and hypothetical consequences. Pollio and committee members discussed the following:

  • The proposal could potentially lead to less racial and economic diversity in schools, and possibly cause a greater concentration of lower income and minority students in West End schools.
  • The proposal could be more fair for students in the West End who have never been guaranteed a choice to attend a school near their home.
  • The district might need to reallocate resources to ensure equitable funding based on the needs of reconfigured school populations.
  • The proposal could make school activities more accessible to students and families of students who are currently being bused from satellite areas.
  • The proposal could be less equitable to students with limited English proficiency, because currently not all JCPS schools have ESL programs.
  • The district might need to build new schools or otherwise rework the district’s infrastructure to provide enough classroom space to accommodate the potential demand for local schools in the satellite areas. The school board has already approved the renovation of the condemned third floor of The Academy @ Shawnee. Tuesday, Pollio also mentioned the possibility of building a new middle school in the West End if the proposal ultimately passes.
  • The district might need to increase program resources, such as expanding career and technical education offerings and magnet programs in schools near satellite areas, to help attract students from other neighborhoods in order to promote diversity.
  • The district might need to create more resources for educating families in the satellite areas about their new options, and would put more responsibility on these families to make decisions about where their children attend school.

JCPS’s current student assignment plan is the result of a nearly fifty-year evolution of various de-segregation policies, molded by school board votes as well as court decisions from as high as the U.S. Supreme Court. This new proposal could add another tick mark in that long timeline, and undo previous actions. The Courier Journal has previously published a timeline of those events.

If the task force approves the idea of offering a nearby school option to students who reside in satellite areas, Pollio said district officials would next update the school board, plan to hold community meetings to gain more public input and likely hire a consultant to draft a more detailed proposal.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.