Four groups to present ideas for newest JCPS school - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Four groups to present ideas for newest JCPS school

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Jennifer Nelson wants to win.

The first grade teacher from Byck Elementary leads a team of educators on the Catalpa School Project, one of four finalists in the JCPS School of Innovation competition. "We've been able to take every aspect of our concept, which represents our life's dream, and turn it into a fully actionable plan for the children and families of Louisville," Nelson said.

The competition will decide what Louisville's next school looks like. The Catalpa idea teaches all subjects from reading to math to art."They (the students) are getting content through story, painting, movement, dance, drama," Nelson explained. She said more than half the kids in the elementary school would come from the neighborhood.

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exact location is undetermined, though she said it would be in one of the city's poorest communities. Bringing this idea to reality is like the toughest homework assignment of her life. "We wrote the initial 25 page application and as you can imagine this summer we have turned it into an implementation document almost four times that length," Nelson said.

So goes it for each of the finalist. "We have been organizing our cultural partners group. We've been defining the unique approach to developing the student experience at our school," said Joanna Hass, who spearheads the Metro Museum Magnet. Groups like the Kentucky Science Center, the Frazier and Slugger Museums, Actors Theatre and Louisville zoo are all partnering together, wanting to create an elementary magnet school on Museum Row.

A third idea is the Next Generation Community School, which would be a high school where students have choice of when, how long, and where they want to learn. The idea came from a Michigan teacher with Louisville roots. 

Teacher Kristen Thomas said, "Our plan focuses on extended learning opportunities with a year-round calendar and an extended school day." 

Each of the four groups spent the summer with a JCPS specialist building and perfecting their proposals. Each group will receive 30 minutes to make their pitch to the school board on July 27. 

"We're really looking for an innovative idea that will increase student achievement. The dollars are important of course, as is feasibility of implementation. The number of students affected and all of those things are factors, but the overriding criteria for this is how can it change students' lives," said Dewey Hensley, JCPS' Chief Academic Advisor.

The school is by all accounts an experiment, Kentucky's answer to the charter school.

Whichever idea is deemed the most innovative may shape the future of education in Kentucky.

"It's really been a privilege and really the greatest work of our professional lives," Nelson said.

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