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JCPS encouraged by response to choice zone option

The district said more than 90% of choice zone families already completed an application, with hundreds choosing schools close to home.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As Jefferson County Public Schools rolls out the first major overhaul of its student assignment plan in decades, numbers seem to show strong support for the new choice zone option. 

The choice zone gives students in west Louisville the option to stay closer to home, rather than going to school in another part of the city. 

In data presented to the school board Tuesday, JCPS reported 91% of choice zone students had submitted applications for the 2023-2024 school year. 

Of those, 83% of the 374 kindergarten student applicants selected schools close to home. The number goes down a bit to 77% of middle school (551 out of 715) applications and 33% of high school applications (231 out of 690). 

"The numbers speak to the need for the change," Executive Administrator of School Choice Amanda Averette-Bush said. "One of the biggest impacts will be sense of belonging, being in a place you know will be uplifted."

After years of work preparing the plan, Averette-Bush said the next challenge is resources and staffing at schools seeing growth.

"We as a district should be able to provide that to them and follow it up with the resources they need to be successful," she said of the choice zone plan. 

The biggest population changes are expected for the Academy at Shawnee. The sixth grade class could be the largest ever, highlighting the need for teachers.

JCPS has already rolled out pay incentives in the choice zone. 

"We will be working tirelessly to make sure they are staffed as needed to meet the needs of our students," Averette-Bush said. 

Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim said the pay incentives could help ensure schools with an influx of students have the staff they need. 

"Probably more beneficial for avoiding teacher transfers out, maybe less so for transfers in, but I do think it helps stabilize the staff at schools where we have those," he said. 

Plus, McKim said having families close by means better communication with teachers and more buy in from students, which both increase teacher experience. 

"All of that impacts our ability to keep good teachers, so I think that could be helpful," he said.

Averette-Bush was encouraged by the choice zone application numbers and said they reflect what the team expected. She said the district is prepared to pivot where necessary, as they roll out the assignment plan. 

“We want to be proactive in making sure that when school opens in August 2023 that we are ready to hit the ground running," she said. 

Averette-Bush said they are working to get applications from the remaining families who need to make a selection for the coming year

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