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As A New School Year Begins, Here's What's On JCPS' Plate

Creative Commons

While about 99,000 students get ready to head back to class this Wednesday, JCPS officials are busy preparing for a new school year.

The district is now about halfway to its deadline to complete a corrective action plan JCPS has agreed to follow in a settlement with the Kentucky Department of Education to avoid a state takeover. As JCPS moves forward with that plan, here are some of the big policy initiatives the school board and district officials will be working on this year:

Corrective Action Plan

In August, Superintendent Marty Pollio reported to the Kentucky Board of Education that JCPS has completed 61 percent of the actions laid out in the corrective action plan. The district has made the most progress in the areas of district-wide finances and school safety, but has the furthest to go in meeting guidelines for special education. State officials will conduct another audit of JCPS in fall 2020.

Internal School Security Force

JCPS will start class this week without any police officers in its buildings. Last spring, the district had 28 school resource officers (SROs) working in its middle and high schools. After the Louisville Metro Police Dept. pulled its 17 officers from schools due to city budget cuts, the school board did not renew the contracts of its remaining officers from suburban police departments in a split 3-3 vote.

The district will start the year with nine officers patrolling outside schools during the day, who have been reassigned from night duty. JCPS spokeswoman Renee Murphy said school officials are still working out where those security guards will patrol.

Superintendent Marty Pollioreleased a plan in late July to hire an internal security force of 40 school resource officers by the 2020-2021 school year. Those officers would be specially trained and directly accountable to the district. Board members who voted against proposed contracts with local police departments say they are holding out for the possibility of a full security force that reports only to the board and superintendent.

New School Board Member

The school board's split vote on SROs was made possible by the fact that the board has an open seat. The district has accepted 13 applications to fill the seat that was vacated by Ben Gies in late June. Under a new state law, the board has 60 days to appoint a replacement after declaring a vacancy — however, the successful candidate will also have to run for election in November.

Student Assignment

One aspect of the corrective action plan calls for JCPS to review its student assignment plan. The plan is a mechanism that maintains diverse schools across the county. It does so by offering families choice, attracting students to neighborhoods other than their own with magnet schools, and busing students in the downtown and West End areas to suburban schools.

District officials are beginning to consider a proposal to give students who live in satellite reside areas a local school option. After a task force of parents and administrators voted to pursue that plan, it will next go before the school board and head to community meetings for public input.

Girls Of Color Academy

In early August, JCPS Chief Equity Officer John Marshall presented school board members with a plan to create a new district-wide magnet school that would cater to girls of color and offer a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math. The school concept also promises an Afrocentric and female-empowering school climate.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal at its next regular meeting, and if approved, planning will continue through this school year with teachers hired in the spring.

Considering Tax Raises

Superintendent Pollio and the school board appear poised to levy new local taxes to support JCPS initiatives and open up new funding sources. Even after approving a new district facility plan to build four new schools and renovate another, JCPS has an estimated $1.3 billion in unmet facility needs. Multiple board members have said they don't consider it an option to not raise taxes given the district's needs. The board has been advised that it could aim to put possible tax increases on May 2020 or November 2020 election ballots.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.

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