JCPS seeks board approval for merger, changes at alternative sch - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS seeks board approval for merger, changes at alternative schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After months of review, Jefferson County Public Schools will ask the school board for approval to merge two of its alternative schools and make structural changes at three other alternative sites that officials say would better meet the needs of individual students.

According to the recommendation from Superintendent Donna Hargens, officials believe the merger of Kennedy Metro and Buechel Metro and other changes at Breckinridge Metro High, Liberty High and the Phoenix School of Discovery would reduce the drop-out rate and increase the graduation rate of the district's alternative students as well as help ensure safe and orderly environments in the district's other schools.

Officials are tentatively calling the merged Kennedy/Buechel school the Bashford Restorative Academy. It would serve a maximum of 438 students and have a total staff of 64 positions, including one principal, three assistant principals, four counselors and 37 certified teachers. The teacher to student ratio would be approximately 12 to 1, while the adult to student ratio would be about 7 to 1.

The overall plan could save the district $880,000 by eliminating 18 positions at two sites, although the district says no one would lose their jobs, they would all be eligible to transfer to positions open at other schools throughout the district.

The Jefferson County Board of Education first heard about the plans during a work session earlier this month and will again discuss the proposal at a 4:45 p.m. work session Monday at Moore Traditional School, 6415 Outer Loop. The item will then be up for approval at the 7 p.m. regular meeting.

The proposal states that if the district can "provide individualized pathways, take advantage of technology, personalize each student's educational plan and setting, intervene with students who are behind and respond to a student's life circumstances appropriately", the district can "give students hope" and "increase instructional time and academic achievement for all students."

JCPS has been searching for a place to put the district's alternative middle school students since last summer, when the school board voted to close Kennedy Metro, 4515 Taylorsville Road, in order to make it an elementary school, in order to address capacity issues at elementary schools in the East End.

According to the plan up for approval Monday, 18 positions would be eliminated from Kennedy Metro and the Phoenix School of Discovery -- an alternative school for students who have struggled in a traditional classroom. It features small class sizes, which had been capped at 10-15 students, and relies heavily on technology.

The merger would save $478,900 by eliminating nine positions at Kennedy Metro, including the school's principal, assistant principal, plant operator, secretary, bookkeeper, records clerk, goal clarity coach and two custodians. An additional $551,180 would be saved by eliminating nine high school teaching positions at the Phoenix School.

Beginning this fall, projected enrollment at Bashford Restorative Academy would jump from 137 students to 438 students; while the Phoenix School would see an increase of 105 students and Breckinridge and Liberty would experience an increase of approximately 150 students each.

Dewey Hensley, the chief academic officer for JCPS, and Mike Raisor, the district's chief operations officer, have previously assured school board members the four facilities can "safely accommodate" the extra students.

During a March 9 work session, Hensley told school board members this proposal is "completely different from the alternative schools we currently have -- we would place students in schools based on their needs instead of placing them in schools because of their grades or offenses they may have committed."

Rather than assign a student to an alternative school, a committee would look at each child and his or her circumstances and find a pathway at one of the district's restorative or choice academies -- settings officials hope will ultimately guide students to a program or place where they can be successful, he said.

According to the revised proposal up for approval Monday, the Bashford Restorative Academy would need to transfer in 14 middle school teachers, two middle school counselors, two security monitors and one related arts instructor in order to accommodate the additional students from Kennedy. Breckinridge Metro would need to transfer in three high school teachers, two special needs teachers, one related arts instructor and one security monitor.

In addition, the Phoenix School would need to transfer in two special needs teachers, two special needs instructional assistants, one elementary teacher and one security monitor and Liberty High would need five special needs teachers, two special needs instructional assistants, one related arts instructor and one security monitor.

The plan would essentially make the former Buechel Metro, 1960 Bashford Manor Lane, a sixth-through-twelfth grade alternative school for students who've violated the district's code of conduct; while Breckinridge Metro, 1128 E. Broadway, would serve all students who previously lived in juvenile residential facilities, were involved in juvenile court and/or long-term placement in Louisville Metropolitan Youth Detention Center.

Middle school students would be housed on the second floor of the Bashford Restorative Academy and would be separated from high school students, who would be housed on the first floor, Hensley said.

Students who pose an "immediate danger to others" would be removed immediately and placed at Breckinridge Metro in a setting where they would also be monitored individually and provided support and services to help them get back on track, Hensley said. 

Hensley also added that the district's transition centers are also connected to this plan. 

At the start of the 2014-15, JCPS spent $4.9 million for transition centers at each middle and high school -- centers that are meant to help students coming back to their home school from an alternative school or extended absence.

"Our hope is that less students will spend time in an alternative school setting due to minor infractions," he said. "We want to get them back into the regular setting as soon as we can so that they can be successful."

Hensley said the district needs a flexible alternative system.

"We have situations where a kid who's been truant is sitting in the same classroom as a student who's been violent," he said. "We also have 17-year-old ninth graders. We need to have a better system so we can better respond to situations like that."

The district currently has approximately 1,700 students who've been assigned to alternative schools, Hensley said. Officials believe an additional 3,300 at risk-students who are failing to prosper in a traditional school setting would also benefit from the restructuring, he said.

As WDRB News reported in February, the plan to consolidate Jefferson County's alternative schools has caused concern among staff members and parents.

Hensley said officials have met with teachers, staff and community members about their concerns.

The district is still considering changes to its two teenage parenting schools -- Westport and South Park TAPP -- but that will not be up for discussion on Monday, Hensley said.

PREVIOUS | JCPS unveils plan to reshape alternative school education

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PREVIOUS | Plans for JCPS alternative school students cause worry among staff, parents

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter. 

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