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In a Switch, a JCPS 'School of Innovation' May Now Move Into Atkinson Elementary

Jefferson County Public Schools administrators have a new plan for one of the Schools of Innovation competition winners.Earlier this year, the school board chose two winners of the months-long schools of innovation competitionThe Catalpa School and The Louisville Reach Academy.Administrators originally recommended establishing the Louisville Reach Academy at the Myers Middle School building, which currently houses the Phoenix School of Discovery.  At a special work session Monday night, Jonathan Lowe, the district’s director of strategy, nixed those plans.Instead, he proposed the Louisville Reach Academy be established at the current site of Atkinson Elementary.Lowe cited a number of reasons for the switch, including board members' concerns that the Louisville Reach Academy could better benefit students at schoolswith lower academic achievement.“There were a couple of things that we got direction on, and one was to make sure we were targeting these additional resources to a set of kiddos that were experiencing academic challenges,” he said. The switch to Atkinson Elementary would also be less disruptive for students than the initial proposal, Lowe said. In the earlier plan, Phoenix School of Discovery's students moved to Klondike Elementary; Klondike's students would then have become Louisville Reach Academy students. They'd go to class in the Myers Middle building.Establishing the Louisville Reach Academy at Atkinson Elementary would come with about $276,000 in added costs for the 2015-2016 year, according to data provided by JCPS.  The costs increase to more than $306,000 for the three following years.Atkinson Elementary has a current budget of $2.8 million, according to JCPS data.Eleven schools  met the criteria needed to house the Louisville Reach Academy, Lowe said. In the end, officials decided to present Atkinson to the school  board to consider for approval at a later meeting.Lowe said the Atkinson site has ample space to allow the Louisville Reach Academy to become the district’s first K-8 school—though it will begin as a K-5 school in 2015-16 school year, gradually adding grade level each year until the K-8 structure is reached.  Also, more than 90 percent of Atkinson's students are eligible for free or reduced meal plans.The Louisville Reach Academy looks to provide “wraparound services” to students, which will include access to social and community resources for students and families.  Lowe touted the programming already in place at Atkinson as a key to providing positive supports for that concept, like partnerships with UofL Signature Partnership, Seven Counties and Neighborhood House.“It has a good, strong set of resources already in place so we are looking to build up on the resources that are there and create something that is really helpful for kids,” Lowe said. Lowe said district officials will hold a public meeting at Atkinson Elementary  on Tuesday night to address  concerns parents or community members may have.The Catalpa SchoolThe Jefferson County School Board on Monday night unanimously approved a proposal to transform Maupin Elementary into the Waldorf inspired Catalpa School.The Catalpa School was one of two school concepts chosen as a winner of the months-long schools of innovation competition.The school concept will use a “holistic approach to education to meet the academic needs of each unique child through a balance of art, music, drama, movement and experiences in nature,” according to JCPS.Board member Diane Porter, who represents District 1, stressed the importance of keeping the  school's name. The school was named for Millard T. Maupin."It's really important in the community," she said.  "Please, continue to say Maupin or come live in my neighborhood."Correction:  An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Jonathon Lowe's position with JCPS.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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