LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A plan to transform Maupin Elementary into a school that will be based on arts and humanities in an effort to boost student achievement was approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday.

The Catalpa School – a concept that was one of two winning designs in the district's School of Innovation competition – will open next fall at Maupin, which is located on Catalpa Street in the Parkland neighborhood.

Last year, the Kentucky Department of Education designated JCPS as one of four school districts in the state that would be allowed to break out of the traditional structure of public education and experiment with learning. As a result, the district asked the community come up with ideas on what it could do.

Officials said the idea behind the Catalpa School is to create an approach to education that blends the Waldorf tradition – an approach that uses the arts to teach academics in a brain-based and developmentally appropriate manner – with Kentucky's core academic standards.

It will feature a humanities-based curriculum that incorporates movement, visual art, storytelling or drama with an overall goal of boosting test scores. According to 2013-14 test scores, only 24 percent of Maupin's students are proficient in math, while only 26 percent are proficient in reading.

Superintendent Donna Hargens said the Catalpa School will cost approximately $370,000 for the first four years of implementation – mainly to cover professional development and summer institutes for teachers.

The Catalpa School at Maupin will be a district wide magnet school, which means students from across the district will be allowed to apply, said Jonathan Lowe, director of strategy for JCPS.

Lowe said he believes “most” of the 80 students enrolled in the Waldorf magnet at Byck Elementary School will apply to attend the Catalpa School. Once the school opens, the Waldorf magnet at Byck will no longer exist, he said.

Meanwhile, officials also briefed the board on a proposal to house the district's other School of Innovation concept – the Louisville Reach Academy – at Atkinson Elementary School in Portland. The board will not vote on that concept until Oct. 27.

The Louisville Reach Academy would feature an extended school day and include opportunities for medical, dental and governmental services. It would also feature small class sizes, technology-based learning (iPads for every student) and a fully operational greenhouse.

District officials had initially proposed transforming Klondike Lane Elementary into the Louisville Reach Academy – a proposed kindergarten through 8th grade school with a longer day for remedial and enrichment classes – and place the program at the Myers Middle School campus in Hikes Point.  

However, after concerns raised by school board members who said they felt there were other schools in the district with lower academic achievement and higher need.

In response, Hargens said she decided to “go back to the drawing board” to ensure that the Louisville Reach Academy would reach the right kids and so that it would be less disruptive for students.

The estimated cost for the Louisville Reach Academy is nearly $1.2 million for the first four years, with most of that cost going to pay for the extended day program.

School board member Chris Brady said he is pleased the district selected a different school for the concept.

"I believe the Louisville Reach Academy has potential to make the biggest impact," he said. "I just want to be sure we'll be able to quantify the results."

School board members asked whether the district had consulted with the University of Louisville, since Atkinson is part of the university's signature partnership program.

Hargens said JCPS has reached out to UofL; board members indicated they wanted a response before they would be willing to vote on the measure.

District officials also presented a scaled down version of the Metro Museum Magnet School to the school board. 

The proposal calls for the school to serve third through fifth graders and feature two classes per grade and will operate in partnership with the Kentucky Science Center, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and the Muhammad Ali Center. 

It would cost $1.1 million in the first year; the initial proposal called for a $6.7 million facility. 

School board members had several questions for district officials about the scaled down version of the Metro Museum School. Hargens said she would work on getting answers to those questions by the Oct. 27 meeting.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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