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Here are the JCPS magnets that stand to lose the most students to transportation cuts

A yellow school bus is stopped in the road. High school students are boarding. A sunrise in the background.
Jess Clark
JCPS students board a bus for their morning route to Waggener High School in October 2023.

About 1,000 students’ families told Jefferson County Public Schools they will leave their school after the board approved transportation cuts for magnets. But one community leader says it’s likely an underestimate.

Records obtained by LPM News show nearly 1,000 students’ families told Jefferson County Public Schools they’ll be leaving their magnet program or school next year. That’s after the Jefferson County Board of Education decided to cut transportation to all but four magnet schools in an attempt to solve a bus driver shortage.

According to a survey in May, 5.5% of 17,850 magnet and traditional school families said they planned to transfer next year. About 80% said they planned to stay, and 14% did not respond to the survey.

Some schools and programs are hit much harder than others. Schools that serve a higher proportion of low-income families tend to have a higher proportion of students leaving.

Among full magnet schools, Whitney M. Young Elementary is losing the greatest proportion of its enrollment. At least 30 students — almost a quarter of the school’s population — said they will leave due to transportation cuts, according to the survey. That was before JCPS told families Young will swap buildings with Hudson Middle School, three miles away.

Meanwhile, other schools and programs are losing very few students — at least for now. At duPont Manual High School, one of the district’s most prestigious magnets, just three of the school’s nearly 1,900 students were planning to transfer as of May 22.

The data includes responses from students in very small magnet programs or academies inside regular public schools. Sometimes those programs have less than a handful of students, so the loss of one or two students represents a large drop in the program population, but not in the overall school enrollment.

The number of transfering students may grow, Louisville Urban League President Lyndon Pryor told LPM. Pryor said he was leery of the result showing that only 5.5% of families planned to leave their magnet.

Thousands of families never responded to the survey, Pryor noted, and many parents who said they planned to keep their child at their magnet don’t yet have a plan for transportation.

“They're just going to hold on to the option of keeping their child where they are because they don't want to see their child disappointed, or don't want to see their child suffer,” he said.

What’s also likely, according to Pryor, is that many magnet students’ families will try to make it work for the first few weeks of the school year, before they find that providing their own transportation is unsustainable.

“What is it going to mean, say, two weeks in, three weeks in, six weeks in? That's the bigger question,” Pryor said.

District plans to retain spots for magnet students, hold schools ‘harmless’ for enrollment drops

Spokespeople for JCPS said the district is promising to hold all students’ spots at their current magnet, even if they already told the district they will have to transfer to their “resides” school.

A resides school is the school a student is guaranteed a spot in based on their home address.

Magnet students will only be officially moved if they show up at their resides school on the first day, according to JCPS spokesperson Carolyn Callahan.

That means if a current magnet student says they plan to switch to their resides school, they can still show up at their magnet on the first day of the 2024-2025 school year and be enrolled there.

Schools are staffing based on where students told JCPS they plan to attend, according to Callahan.

District officials have also said schools will be “held harmless” if they experience enrollment drops due to the transportation cuts. School budgets are based largely on the number of students a school serves, and a sudden enrollment drop can create financial difficulties.

Callahan said the promise to hold schools harmless only applies to their budgets, not staffing.

TARC driver update

JCPS reached an agreement with TARC earlier this month to borrow 70 TARC drivers for next school year.

Superintendent Marty Pollio said he plans to bring back some routes to the “neediest” students. It’s unclear what criteria would be used to select those students.

“No routes would be restored until at least a few weeks into the school year,” Callahan said in an email to LPM. “TARC driver training will go through the first few weeks of school.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to point out that at some regular public schools, smaller magnet academies or programs operate. A decrease of only a few students could account for a large percentage loss.

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

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