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JCPS parents weigh in on school choice plan, 'It's more about better education for our kids'

It aims to give west Louisville parents the option to send their kids to schools closer to home. The school board unanimously approved the proposal Wednesday night.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A decades-old blueprint for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) student assignment is set to be thrown out.

In its place will be major reforms within the school district. The new plan aims to give west Louisville parents the option to send their kids to schools closer to home, and a return of 'neighborhood schools.'

But families will have to wait until the fall of 2023 to utilize new school choice options, made possible by the school board's unanimous approval of Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio's proposal.

"What we're really focusing on is student outcomes and how we improve outcomes for kids," Dr. Pollio said.

In the meantime, some parents are looking ahead, weighing the pros and cons of a plan, along with promises they say need to be kept.

"We've had so many promises about what's going to happen in our community, and sometimes [they've fallen] through, so my attitude is wait and see," said Jackie Floyd, community advocate and organizer at the Russell Neighborhood Association.

RELATED: Jefferson County Board of Education votes 'yes' on school choice proposal

The school district hopes having options will help tackle the achievement gap, improve attendance and give students a better sense of belonging.

But people like Floyd are concerned whether existing schools will be able to effectively accommodate everyone who opts to stay closer.

"We only have two high schools in the west end," she said.

Pollio's newly approved plan has gained conditional support from groups like NAACP Louisville. At the meeting, community members largely voiced approval, but not without some skepticism.

Parents and community leaders we spoke to fell in the same boat. They say in order to see results, JCPS must deliver on diversity benchmarks at magnet schools and build newer facilities in the area.

"Children wanna be where they wanna be. It's just where they're more comfortable," said Jasmine Harris, a Russell neighborhood mother of three. "If they want to be in the west end, they deserve to have better schooling down here too. I don't want this to become a race issue. It's more about better education for our kids."

JCPS' plan centers around equity, to improve quality schooling options, investments and teacher pay.

RELATED: 'We are the land of the misfit toys': JCPS chess club helps students find success beyond the board

The school bussing system, dating back to the 1970s, had a goal for integration. But the result was further inequities. Even school leaders themselves admitted the student assignment structure fell short.

Pollio believes new policies will help fix some of the issues. While there's hope and belief from the community they will help, there are also calls for accountability in the process.

Community leaders say this plan is also contingent on teachers being better incentivized to teach in choice zone schools. The teachers association and the school district have been in negotiations on how to make that happen.

On Thursday evening, JCPS announced that school district leaders and the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) have reached a tentative agreement on an updated salary structure to recommend to the school board for consideration.

It will reportedly include an "across-the-board" raise for all teachers, stipends and an increase in the salary supplement for Choice Zone school staff.

The news conference is set for 10 a.m. Friday.

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