School of Innovation finalists seek to shape the future of Ky. e - WDRB 41 Louisville News

School of Innovation finalists seek to shape the future of Ky. education

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools has selected four finalists in a competition to build a new school and change the way children learn in Louisville.

The state's largest school district announced the finalists for the School of Innovation competition Monday night.

Brandeis Elementary teacher Kristen Thomas is crunching numbers with her first graders, while also developing a way to bring more excitement to the classroom.

"Our plan focuses on extended learning opportunities with a year-round calendar and an extended school day, which will provide the students with extra time in their enrichments and interventions," said Thomas, who is the lead teacher on the Louisville Reach Academy Project, one of the four finalists in the JCPS competition.

The state gave the district special exemption from certain regulations to build its own school with its own rules and re-think education.

Between now and this summer, finalists like Thomas will work with specialists in the district to figure out how to turn an idea into reality.

"Somebody who is focused on facilities, somebody who is focused on budgets, somebody focused on curriculum and professional development and each of those things," said Jonathan Lowe, director of student assignment at JCPS.

Another concept, The Catalpa School, teaches all subjects through art "to meet all the needs of children -- the needs of the head, the heart and the hands," said Catalpa School visionary Jennifer Nelson, a teacher at Byck Elementary School.

The third concept, Metro Museum Magnet School, puts a magnet school on Museum Row.

And the fourth, the Next Generation Community School, came from a Michigan teacher with Louisville roots.

"No longer having a bell schedule, but creating a flexible environment giving students the choice of when and for how long and where they want to do their learning," said Next Generation developer Haley Hart.

Schools of Innovation are Kentucky's answer to the charter school debate.

Leaders hope one of these four ideas holds a formula to better education in the Commonwealth.

"Now it's on us to make it happen, to make something great happen for our kid," Lowe said.

JCPS board members expect to name the winner of the School of Innovation competition this summer, with a tentative opening date of Aug. 2015.

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