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JCPS cuts ribbon on first new West End school in 23 years

A smiling crowd is gathered in front of a new brick building. They are watching a woman at a podium who is smiling widely.
Jess Clark
/
LPM
Perry Elementary Principal Keisha Fulson will lead the first new school built in the West End in 23 years.

Community members celebrated the opening of Dr. William H. Perry Elementary School Friday. It’s the first new school Jefferson County Public Schools has built in Louisville’s West End since 2000.

The huge,brand new facility will serve 650 students in the California and Russell neighborhoods.

“Yes, it’s our turn,” Jefferson County Board of Education Chair Diane Porter said.

Porter represents school board District 1, which encompasses much of the majority-Black West End. Porter called the day a “historic” one for the California and Russell neighborhoods and said she was proud of JCPS for investing in the new West End facility.

“It is hurtful that it has taken this long to get where we are. But we’re going in the right direction now so I think that we can feel more positive as we move forward,” Porter said.

JCPS officials say the building is a state-of-the-art facility, with wide hallways, large windows and geothermal heating and cooling. It’s connected to the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA on West Broadway, where students will have access to the pool, gym and other amenities.

“Our kids deserve this brand new school,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said, earning applause from the crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting.

The school is named after William H. Perry, a Louisville Central High School graduate and the first Black person to attain a license to practice medicine in Kentucky.

Fourth grader Harmoni Burt and second grader Charlie Wright said they were very excited about access to the pool, where they want to learn how to swim.

“I’m excited because we get to go to a new school, and we’re the first people to go to Perry,” Harmoni said.

Charlie said she was excited about the new teachers, and that many teachers from her old school, Phillis Wheatley Elementary, will work there.

“And I’m happy Ms. Fulson’s here with us,” Charlie said, giving a shoutout to Principal Keisha Fulson.

“Our last school, there were some things that needed to be done to the building,” Fulson told LPM News. “But here you can see that everything is brand new, and I think a lot of kids haven’t had that experience of being in something that is brand new, where you’re going to be the first children to utilize these facilities.”

Fulson is also planning to invite community members to use the school and its library as a meeting space.

Hudson Middle School update

Fulson and many of her students come from the now-closed Phillis Wheatley Elementary. The facility that housed Wheatley underwent a renovation over the summer and will temporarily house the new Dr. J. Blaine Hudson Middle School.

Pollio said he plans to announce the building site for the new, permanent Hudson Middle School in the next six to eight weeks.

Hudson is the first new middle school to be created in west Louisville since 1932, according to JCPS. The district needs a new middle school in the area to accommodatethe new student assignment plan, which allows middle and high schoolers in the West End the opportunity to go to school closer to home for the first time since the 1970s.

Since the 1975, students from the majority-Black section of town have been assigned to schools in whiter, wealthier suburbs with the goal of racial and economic integration. But many West End families say the long bus rides are unfair.

At the same time, some worry about the impacts of increased racial and economic segregation under the plan.

Hudson Middle School is one of 23 school buildings Pollio says the district is committed to building over the next 10 years.

“We plan on being in west Louisville and making an impact with new facilities many times over,” he said.

The superintendent has prioritized facilities improvements since he took the helm in 2018.

JCPS’ first day of school is Aug. 9th.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.