LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two bell schedules, two separate wings and two different groups of students -- it's all part of a radical change taking place on the Waggener High School campus this fall.

The school, located on Hubbards Lane in St. Matthews, has historically only served high school-aged students – but is now home to nearly 350 seventh and eighth graders who attended Myers Middle last year.

“So far, things have been going pretty good,” said Katy Zeitz, the principal of Waggener who is also overseeing the middle school on her campus. “There have been a lot of adjustments, but overall, this has been a really great thing for us and for the kids that we serve.”

Officials with Jefferson County Public Schools say dramatic change was needed at Myers – a Hikes Point school that for years was among the lowest performing schools in the state. According to 2013 test scores, only 11 percent of students were proficient in math and 23 percent were proficient in reading.

The school board voted to close the school in May and sent its seventh and eighth grade students to Waggener, while incoming sixth graders were reassigned to 10 other middle schools across the district.

“We wanted to do something new and innovative in an attempt to get different results,” said Kirk Lattimore, an assistant superintendent with JCPS. “We are excited about the possibilities.”

In addition to reassigning the students, more than half of the Myers teachers are new and they are focusing on “intense instruction” to get students on grade level, Lattimore said.

“Our mission is to get these kids ready for high school,” Zeitz said. “We want them to have the social and academic skills they need so they can function at whatever high school they choose to attend.”   

Meanwhile, the Myers school building has been re-purposed to meet other needs outlined in the district's long-range facility plan.

Seventh grader Madison Boone said Thursday she wasn't sure what to think when she found out her school was closing and that she would be attending Waggener.

“I was worried that they were going to mix us in with the high school kids,” she said. “But it hasn't been like that at all. It's almost like we are our own school within a school.”

Zeitz said that is exactly what she and other district officials have tried to create. 

“On paper, it's one building,” she said. “But it's really two different schools, with two separate budgets that are being operated at the same time on the same campus.”

The middle schoolers and high schoolers are housed in separate wings. Buses load and unload the younger kids in the front of the building, while the older kids get on and off buses in the back. In addition, schedules were re-worked so that they don't pass each other in the hallways and officials also created a plan for breakfast and lunch.

And once the seventh and eighth graders leave middle school, Waggener will once again return to being just a high school.

“The middle school is not going to stay open,” Zeitz said. “It's going to close, not this year, not next year, but the year after that. What I'm hoping is that students who are here that really like being here will stay."

Eighth graders Drew Basden and Christian Jolo said they are happy to be at Waggener. In just a week, they said the behavioral issues that existed last year at Myers are gone.

“I am able to learn very well,” said Christian, 13. “There is no disrupting. There is no shouting and disrespecting every day.”

Drew said the learning environment at Waggener is “much better.”

“The teachers are great and there are not many disruptions during class,” she said. “We've been given trust and we have more freedom. I think it's much better than last year, I look forward to coming to school every day.”

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0839 or @tkonz on Twitter. 

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