New schooling opportunities may be coming to West Louisville.
For decades, students in the historically low-income West End have lacked access to schools close to home. But during a virtual summit earlier this month, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio explained how the district’s new student assignment proposal would create new schooling options for West Louisville families. If it’s approved, thousands of students there would no longer have to travel across town to go to school.
What’s In The Plan?
JCPS’ proposed student assignment plan would modify the district’s use of “satellite zones,” a concept which was introduced decades ago to diversify the district’s schools. Back in the 1970s when court-ordered integration efforts were underway, the district began dividing up students in the predominantly Black neighborhoods of the West End and zoning them for different high schools throughout Jefferson County. The idea was that by busing Black students from the West End across the county, Louisville’s schools would be better integrated.
But the new plan calls for the end of “forced busing” by giving West End students the choice to attend a school closer to their own community. To do that, JCPS will set aside part of its new revenue from an approved property tax increase for the construction of two new middle schools, a new high school, and renovations to The Academy at Shawnee. Students in the West Louisville community would then have the choice to either attend one of the new schools there or attend the school determined by their satellite zone.
To that end, the proposed plan would also greatly simplify the different feeder patterns throughout the district. Currently, there are 50 different feeder patterns from middle to high school in JCPS. The new student assignment plan would reduce that to 11.
This plan is significant for a few reasons. First and foremost, it would provide new educational opportunities in a community that has seen very little change in decades. The last time a new school was built in West Louisville, the year was 1956 and Muhammad Ali was a high school freshman. District surveys have shown that nine out of ten JCPS parents want choices regarding their children’s schools, and the proposed student assignment plan would do precisely that for many of Jefferson County’s most underserved families.
Selecting one of the newly-constructed West End schools may be an attractive option for students, but students would still have the choice to attend school in another part of the city if they prefer. The only caveat is that those satellite zones are changing, too.
Notice how the current smorgasbord of satellite zones looks a lot more consolidated under the proposed assignment plan. Because of that, West End students would actually have fewer satellite schools to choose from.
However, many parents there aren’t sending their kids to school across town by choice anyway. The prospect of having schools closer to home is exciting and will ultimately allow for better family engagement.
“It allows students living in West Louisville and their parents to actually participate in the school because right now many of them have to travel outside their communities and not able to do so quite often,” Metro Council President David James said in an interview. For the first time, extracurricular activities like school sports may be an opportunity for West End students.
If the proposed student assignment plan is approved, it will take effect in fall 2021. In the meantime, JCPS is seeking public feedback on the plan and wants to know if there are any considerations they might be missing.
What are your thoughts?
Photo by Shelley Glapion, CC-Licensed.