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Two Concepts Win the JCPS School of Innovation Competition

Updated: The Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday unanimously chose two concepts—the Catalpa School and the Louisville Reach Academy—as the winners of the School of Innovation competition.For Abby Terranova and three other JCPS teachers who formed the Catalpa School concept, the cheers from the roughly 100 people at Monday's meeting were nine months in the making.“It’s been a longtime dream of all of ours,” she said.Late last year, Jefferson County Public Schools asked community members to submit proposals to design a new school.The concepts could become JCPS schools starting in the 2015-16 academic year. The school district whittled about 60 submissions to 12 semifinalist and, later, to four finalists. (You canhear presentations from the 12 semifinalists here.)WFPL's Devin Katayama recently reported on the four finalists. Of the newly announced winners, he wrote: The Catalpa School proposal is led by several JCPS elementary school teachers. The school would be open for pre-schoolers to fifth grade, with the potential to grow into middle school. The heart of this program is a Waldorf-style education that "balances art, music, drama, movement, and experiences in nature to promote creativity and critical thinking." Louisville Reach Academy proposal is also led by a group of JCPS teachers. It would offer students a year-round school that serves kindergartners through eighth grade. The school would also have "wraparound services." "The one site will include opportunities for medical and dental services, family therapy, government services, adult education, job shadowing, and family education workshops." The program would also have small class sizes and iPads for every student.With the final selections made, both groups will begin moving forward with JCPS staff to get their school programs into a building and begin filling classrooms.Bob Rodosky, the district’s chief of data management, said JCPS staff will identify facilities that can house these programs.  Staff will also develop a specific budget for each program, highlighting additional allocations that will be required to get each program off the ground.  The next steps will be researched, and findings on those questions will be presented to the board in September, Rodosky said.Representatives from both winning groups said they were unsure about exact cost of getting their programs into a school.  Rodosky said they will each be able to use existing buildings, which greatly reduces the costs.Each school is expected to be ready to enroll students for the 2015-2016 school year, he added.The question of cost was something echoed by all board members.“We have to be fiscally responsible,” said board member Carroll Haddad.Board member Debbie Wesslund added: “I think it’s great to move ahead to the next step, but we’ve got to know how much it is going to cost."Rodosky said full implementation of the concepts will take several years.  The Catalpa School will be a year-by-year process of entering a school, beginning at the kindergarten level.The other finalists were theMetro Museum Magnet School and the Next-Generation Community School.  Superintendent Donna Hargens said district officials will work with the designers of those concepts to develop more detail to their plans and, especially for the Metro Museum Magnet, develop a working budget.  Both concepts will be presented to the board in the future for further consideration.  This story was part of WFPL's education news special on the eve of the 2014-15 JCPS school year. You can hear the full show here.

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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