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JCPS releases some details of transportation proposal, seeks feedback days before vote

Many young people in jeans and street fashions walk through a crowded parking lot. School buses are in the background.
Jess Clark
High school and middle school students change buses at the Detrick and Nichols Bus Compound on Monday, Aug 21.

Just days before a vote on cuts to magnet transportation, JCPS is asking for community feedback on their plan.

Jefferson County Board of Education members will be asked Tuesday to approve cutting transportation for nearly all 16,000 students in magnet and traditional school programs.

That’s according to materials that were posted on the board’s website late Thursday. Six PowerPoint slides sketch out Jefferson County Public School Superintendent Marty Pollio’s recommendation that the district ax buses for most magnet school students so that the rest of JCPS’ 96,000 students have reliable transportation.

According to the slide deck, JCPS would only provide transportation to the following students:

  • Students attending their “reside” or home school.
  • Students who are experiencing homelessness. 
  • Special education students who have transportation accommodations in their Individualized Education Plan.
  • Students in alternative schools. Those include Grace James Academy of Excellence, Breckinridge-Metropolitan High School, Liberty High, Minor Daniels Academy, Newcomer Academy, Phoenix School of Discovery, Georgia Chaffee Teenage Parent Program, W.E.B. Dubois Academy, Ahrens Education Resource Center, The Binet School, Churchill Park School, Heuser Hearing and Language Academy, Mary-Ryan Academy, the UofL Pact Program and Waller-Williams Environmental School.

Transportation would not be provided to students in JCPS’ magnet schools or magnet programs, or to students in Academies of Louisville magnets or traditional schools.
It’s a solution staff have been honing in on for months. In board meetings, top JCPS staff said they’ve considered other options, such as using “hubs” or providing a bus for low-income magnet students only. However, staff said those alternatives were “not feasible” or did not cut enough routes.

At the heart of the JCPS busing crisis is a driver shortage and a failed plan to address it.

With a week’s notice, the board announced a plan to vote on a transportation fix next Tuesday. Community groups — including PTA leaders, the Louisville NAACP and the Louisville Urban League — said they are opposed to any proposal that cuts magnet transportation.

JCPS officials had promised opportunities for feedback on transportation changes. On Thursday evening that opportunity came in the form of an online survey.

For some parents, it's too late.

“Why now?” JCPS parent Taryn Bell said. She said the survey wouldn’t have enough time to circulate or to be interpreted by staff before the vote.

“I mean that’s what, three or four days away? I don’t think it’s enough time,” she said.

Bell also had questions about the assertion made in materials accompanying the survey, which said the proposal to cut magnet transportation was the only plan that passed muster with the district’s test for racial equity — known as the Racial Equity Analysis Protocol, or REAP.

“I honestly don’t know how it did,” Bell said.

Bell, other parents and some Black community leaders say transportation cuts would mean fewer low-income students, Black students and other students of color would be able to access magnet programs. The NAACP has threatened to pull its support from the entire student assignment overhaul as a result.

However, the JCPS webpage accompanying the survey presents cutting magnet transportation as “the most equitable option with the least negative impact on students of color.”

Black and other students of color are a majority of JCPS bus riders and are disproportionately being impacted, right now, by the shortage of drivers and the resulting late arriving buses,” the webpage reads.

The webpage notes that 6,000 of the 8,500 Black magnet students ride a bus.

“Yes, we understand those students will be impacted the most as will all students who make the choice to attend a magnet school and need a ride to get there,” the page reads, adding that the district is working with TARC to provide a free pass to all JCPS middle and high school students.

The slide deck suggests the district is considering a stipend for magnet and traditional families. For students on free or reduced-priced lunch, the slide deck says staff are proposing a $10 daily stipend and a $5 daily stipend to families who are not on free or reduced-price lunch.

The stipend is estimated to cost up to $7.6 million.

JCPS spokespeople did not respond to emailed questions about the proposal or the survey by our deadline.

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