LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Despite concerns about a lack of student voice and it being a rushed proposal, a divided Jefferson County Board of Education approved a plan Tuesday that will combine Frost and Stuart middle schools and move them to the Stuart Middle campus.

The plan, which was first disclosed to the school board and the public on March 15, will also begin to phase out the Valley Prep program at Valley High.

It passed 4-2 with school board members Lisa Willner and Linda Duncan voting against it. Board member Chuck Haddaway was absent.

"There is a lot of this plan that I really like, but a few things holding me back from supporting it tonight," Willner said during the meeting, noting that "one big piece missing from this middle school proposal is student voice."

"I have heard one word about how students feel about this," Willner said. "Another concern is that parents have already made school selections made on one set of conditions, but now we have another set of conditions. What are we going to do to bend over backwards and ensure those children's needs are met?"

Duncan said she has heard "from a number of my constituents" who were in not favor of the plan.

"Are we closing Frost to please adults, or are we closing Frost because we've uncovered tools that would help our students?" she asked.

Two community members, including Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, voiced concerns about the proposal to the board.

Fowler says many students and parents at Frost are "concerned about bullying if they move to Stuart" campus.

Mark Romines, a resident from Valley Village, pleaded with the board to keep Frost open.

"If you take away Frost Middle School building, you are going to cause our property values to decrease," he said. "You want to take a perfectly good, working building and close it. Please don't take my school away."

School board chairman David Jones Jr. asked the district if it was necessary to approve all elements of the plan Tuesday night.

Superintendent Donna Hargens said yes because she wants to move forward on hiring a principal for the 7th and 8th grade academy at Stuart and then have the process for hiring teachers begin.

"We want this school to be on the front end of being able to get the best teachers," Hargens said.

Jones said he believed the plan is "sensible" but asked Hargens: "How can we track that this is working?" 

"What kind of assurance can you give us that this will work. Who's in charge?" Jones asked.

Hargens said a "project coordinator (who has not yet been hired or named) will be in charge of this plan, make sure it works."

Under this plan:

- All rising sixth-grade students will attend a separate, small sixth-grade academy (434 students) on the Stuart Middle campus, 4601 Valley Station Road.

- Rising seventh-grade students currently assigned to Stuart and Valley Prep and rising eighth-graders currently assigned to Stuart will attend a separate, small seventh- and eighth-grade academy on the Stuart campus. (In the 2016-17 school year the school is expected to have 643 students; in 2017-18; it is expected to have 848 students.)

- Current seventh-graders at Valley Prep, who will be eighth-graders next school year, will stay at Valley Prep with their teachers to finish the 2016-17 school year.  The sixth-grade academy and seventh- and eighth-grade center would be separate and distinct schools located on the Stuart campus. 

Hargens said the plan will "create an optimal learning environment for middle school students and staff."

Last school year, only 19 percent of Frost Sixth Grade Academy students were proficient in reading, 13 percent were proficient in math, 18 percent were proficient in writing. At Stuart, 24 percent were proficient in reading, 14 percent were proficient in math, 19 percent were proficient in social studies, 8 percent were proficient in writing.


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