JCPS' School of Innovation Discussion Lingers On
Jefferson County Board of Education members want to continue the discussion on plans to create two new schools based on proposals from community members.At a meeting Monday evening, the school board scheduled a third special work session—on Oct. 13—on the School of Innovation competition winners.District officials' presentation on the proposals for the winning Schools of Innovation concepts at a Sept. 22 meeting ran too long, leaving some board members with unanswered questions. "Before we can vote on it we have to understand what we are voting on," said board chairwoman Diane Porter, who represents District 1. But the extended discussion of the winning School of Innovation concepts— called the Louisville Reach Academy and the Catalpa School, respectively—also raised concerns. "I'm weary of devoting work session after work session to two schools out of the great many that we oversee," said board member David Jones Jr., who represents District 2. Part of the proposal for creating the schools involves moving students from Klondike Elementary School into the former Myers Middle School building. Board member Debbie Wesslund, representing District 3, said officials should reconsider. "I don't understand why we are picking Klondike," she said. Wesslund said there are other schools within the district that could better benefit from the resources that will be allocated instead to the Louisville Reach Academy. The Louisville Reach Academy is projected to have about $476,000 in added costs heading into its expected first school year starting in August 2015. Those funds are in addition to the $2.8 million budget already allocated to Klondike Lane, which will be carried over to the Louisville Reach Academy, according to district officials. Michael Raisor, the district's chief operations officer, said the Myers Middle School building will best accommodate the concept of the Louisville Reach Academy. "There are a lot of struggling kids at Klondike," Raisor said. "For this one, we thought this was our best chance for success." An aspect of establishing the Louisville Reach Academy calls for relocating the students currently enrolled in the Phoenix School of Discovery—which moved into the Myers Middle School building this academic year—to the Klondike Elementary building. Lowe assured the school board that Klondike Elementary building would be the final home of the Phoenix School of Discovery. Raisor said the move of the middle and high school students into an elementary school building will not be an issue for a school that is largely technology-focused. He said the $150,000 renovation allowance district officials have set aside for the Phoenix School's move into the Klondike Elementary building will primarily be used for technology advances. The districts proposal for the Catalpa School—which involves establishing the program at the current site of Maupin Elementary—would likely require whole-staff training at a cost of nearly $1,000 per teacher. Wesslund said she had concerns about moving the Catalpa School's Waldorf-style programming into a whole-school format. "Because it's so unique," she said. Byck Elementary, which is currently located in the same elementary reside cluster as Maupin Elementary, also hosts a Waldorf style magnet. Just more than 80 of Byck's 540 students are enrolled in the school's Waldorf magnet program, according to district data. District officials have recommended phasing out the Waldorf magnet at Byck, which would then focus entirely on becoming a talent development magnet program. Byck's talent development magnet's enrollment is about the same as its Waldorf magnet. The talent development magnet, Lowe said "is an effort to use individualized instruction to encourage students to meet their fullest potential." He added that he believes there is "work to be done to strengthen what exactly that means." Lowe said establishing a plan for developing the Schools of Innovation is something that should be finalized sooner rather than later, but he would not say if it was too late in the process to go back to the drawing board and come up with new proposals. "In order to make sure that parents are fully informed a decision needs to be made fairly quickly," he said. Porter added: "Time is not our friend. We have to make a decision." Budget Approved The Jefferson County school board unanimously approved the district's $1.4 billion working budget for the 2014-2015 school year. Superintendent Hargens attributed the more than $170 million increase in dollars allocated directly to schools to less spending towards "things that don't have an impact." "We have eliminated spending that is not getting us a return on investment," Hargens said.