JCPS board approves Kentucky Science Center proposal to operate - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS board approves Kentucky Science Center proposal to operate Challenger Learning Center

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education approved a proposal from the Kentucky Science Center to take over management of the $1.2 million Challenger Learning Center, which is housed at the Academy @ Shawnee.

The non-profit learning center contains elaborate mockups that simulate a space laboratory and mission control, and middle- and high-school students who visit take part in simulated "space missions" that stress math and science principles.

The center at Shawnee is part of a network of non-profit centers created after the 1986 Challenger disaster to teach such concepts to students.

Under the proposal, JCPS will pay the Kentucky Science Center $75,000 to operate the Challenger program and $16,500 for a license fee. In return, JCPS will receive 10 percent of all mission program revenue -- which could be as much as $8,000 annually, said Cordelia Hardin, chief financial officer for the district.

Hardin said the Kentucky Science Center has "big plans" for the Challenger Learning Center, which includes adding more missions, having birthday parties and it will be open on the weekends.

RELATED | Louisville's Challenger Learning Center offers simulated Moon landing for kids

Since May, the center's future had been uncertain. The center's acting director was reassigned to another role, and two positions at the center were eliminated. At the time, Amy Dennes, assistant superintendent with JCPS, said it was a decision the district had to make.

"The district knows we have this valuable field trip destination," Dennes said. "It's an exciting thing for kids, but we've worried for the past couple of years about the business model we had because it was costing us a lot of money."

According to Cordelia Hardin, the Chief Financial Officer for JCPS, the facility had an initial cost of $1.2 million to set up, and incurred subsequent annual operating costs of $250,000. In turn, the center brought in between $50,000 and $55,000 per year.

"It's had a loss basically of $200,000 a year, on average," she said.

The Kentucky Science Center will provide the staff for the Challenger Learning Center, Hardin said.

The school's final mission under its current staff will be Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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