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JCPS Board Moves Student Assignment Discussions Forward

 The Jefferson County Board of Education will iron out changes to the district’s student assignment plan Tuesday night and district leaders may soon adopt a plan that could mean shorter bus rides and less diversity for elementary school students. The JCPS board adopted a plan for elementary schools earlier this year using  recommendations from student assignment expert UCLA professor Dr. Gary Orfield. The plan recognizes already existing pockets of diversity throughout the district and uses new criteria for determine adequate diversity in schools. The district was quick to implement changes for elementary school that could be implemented next school year, and now the board will revisit the plans at all grade levels to make any adjustments, said board member Debbie Wesslund. The plan adopted for elementary school earlier this year kept the district’s six cluster plan in which students are bused for diversity. Now, the district will consider Orfield’s 13 cluster plan that would allow more elementary students to be bused even shorter distances, but that may have repercussions, said board chair Steve Imhoff. “So the question is do we go from 6 to 13 and there are reasons for and against. In general the 13 could have shorter bus rides but in part there might be less diversity,” he said. It’s likely when the board votes next month all grade levels will adhere to the diversity requirements under Orfield’s new criteria, but its likely middle and high schools will not fall under the 13 cluster plan. The board will also discuss Superintendent Donna Hargens’ preliminary evaluation in private executive session. The state passed legislation in 2010 that required school boards to hold preliminary discussions in private, but districts could request a waiver from the regulation. Imhoff was the sole dissenter two years ago when the board was challenged for holding a closed meeting to evaluate previous superintendent Sheldon Berman. “I’ve always thought it would be good to do the whole thing in open session, but I was outvoted 6-1 two years ago, and that’s still my thought, but in order to have consensus with other board members that’s what we’re doing,” said Imhoff. Hargens’ final evaluation will be made public with executive session comments in the report.