LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The average amount of time an elementary-aged student spends riding a school bus in Jefferson County is at the lowest it has been in recent years, according to a new report that will be shared with the school board on Monday.

Elementary students in Jefferson County Public Schools are spending an average of 26.3 minutes on a school bus daily this year, down from 27.3 minutes last year and 29.3 minutes in 2012-13.

Meanwhile, middle and high school students are spending slightly more time on buses – 30.4 minutes this year, compared to 30.1 minutes last year and 30.2 minutes two years ago.

“Our overall ride time districtwide is 28.6 minutes, which is down from 28.8 minutes last year and 29.8 minutes the year before that,” said Bob Rodosky, executive director of data management, planning and program evaluation with JCPS. “It's all about continuous improvement and serving our families.”

The report will be discussed with the Jefferson County Board of Education as part of an overall update to changes and improvements being made to the district's student assignment process.  

The changes include an
and automatic address verification, Rodosky said.

“Our overall goal is helping assist families make informed choices,” he said. “We are trying to eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

JCPS is the 28th largest district in the country, and enrollment has increased steadily since the 2002-03 year. The district's market share also is at its highest – 81 percent of school-age children in Jefferson County are in public schools, compared with 75 percent in the 1990s, Rodosky said.

JCPS' student assignment plan – and how students are assigned to schools – is a controversial topic in Louisville. The plan had to be restructured in 2007 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled the district's old policy was unconstitutional because it considered individual students' race when assigning them to schools.

The current plan classifies the district's 570 census block areas into three categories based on average adult educational attainment level, income and minority population. It then assigns each school a diversity index based on those categories, and each school must fall within the district's acceptable range of 1.4 to 2.5.

JCPS elementary schools are grouped into 13 clusters comprised of five to eight schools; the clusters are determined by a student's home address. The district's middle and high school students are assigned to the middle or high school near the area in which they reside.

Bus transportation is provided to all schools within a child's elementary cluster, as well middle and high school students in their resides area. Transportation is also provided to students admitted into one of the district's magnet schools.

According to the data being provided to the school board on Monday, 77 elementary schools fall within the district's diversity guideline of 1.4 to 2.5, while 13 schools do not. They include: Byck, Englehard, Frayser, Greathouse-Shryock, Hite, Indian Trail, King, Maupin, McFerran, Roosevelt Perry, Stopher, Wheatley and Young.

“Eight of the 13 schools would have a worse index if we weren't doing something intentional – we are trying to achieve a better balance in our schools, based on a student's preferred choice of school,” he said. “But we must do a better job to attract more diversity to these schools.”

Officials say a major goal over the last few years was to simplify the application process. The district's mobile online student registration vehicle has traveled to neighborhoods across the city to provide easy access for parents.

As of Dec. 9, the district had received 24,786 applications for the 2014-15 year. Of that number 91 percent were submitted within the same hour and 93 percent were submitted in the same day, Rodosky said.

The application period is open now through Jan. 9. Applications are only required for elementary students who are entering kindergarten for the first time, elementary students who have moved, or students who are applying for a magnet school or program.

“We are focused on improving efficiency, providing more consistency and targeting our support to families in need,” he said, noting that 88 percent of kindergartners this year received their first choice of schools this fall.

Rodosky said one of the district's next steps is for parents to log on to a redesigned website and see what the odds are that their kids will get into a particular school, based on the five factors the district considers when assigning students – parent choice, siblings, resides, diversity and capacity.

The district will pull together a few years of data to properly calculate odds. It also plans to hire an outside agency to survey parents and other community members about how the process works and how it can be improved, he said.

“These are things we are hoping to have in place next school year,” Rodosky said.