Hundreds pack JCPS meeting about overcrowding concerns at Crosby - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hundreds pack JCPS meeting about overcrowding concerns at Crosby Middle School

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Parents packed into a meeting about overcrowding at Crosby Middle School on Monday night (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Parents packed into a meeting about overcrowding at Crosby Middle School on Monday night (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hundreds of concerned parents packed into the Crosby Middle School cafeteria on Monday night, seeking answers from district officials about long-standing overcrowding issues at the popular east end school.

"We were here two years ago, and not much has changed, has it?" asked Steph Horne, a Jefferson County Board of Education member whose district includes Crosby and most of eastern Louisville. "The building was built for 900, yet there are 1,300 here."

Jefferson County Public Schools officials scheduled the meeting to gather feedback on a number of different ideas and proposals -- including the possibility of moving Crosby's sixth graders to different campus -- but had not planned to let parents speak out.

Instead, district officials wanted them to meet in small groups, discuss the proposals and then write down their thoughts.

"We are not asking for decision tonight, we are just asking for your questions," said Dena Dossett, chief of data management, planning & evaluation for JCPS. "There will be an opportunity to give us additional feedback. We want to make sure everyone has a voice."

But the parents gathered questioned the methodology. 

"You need to hear our voices, and we need to be able to hear each other. It's disrespectful to us that you don't allow us that time," one parent shouted, which prompted cheers and applause from the crowd.

Crosby Middle principal Michael Kelly tried to play mediator, saying he was simply trying to help facilitate the forum by using the "method they wanted," referring to district officials, including Superintendent Donna Hargens, who attended the meeting.

It was then that district officials shifted gears and allowed the parents to speak by stepping up to a microphone. In all, more than two dozen spoke -- some in tears as they talked about how the overcrowding has impacted their children.

"This has got to stop," one said. "A year ago we had this (same) meeting."

Among the options: moving the school's 450 sixth graders to the Jaeger Education Center on Wood Road in Lyndon, starting with the 2017-18 year; making boundary changes to Crosby's attendance zone and creating K-6 or K-8 schools, which would shuffle students around in the east end.

Parent Michelle Adams asked the district: "Of the options, which ones are the most viable?" 

"I want to make sure I am not wasting my time, and you are not wasting all these peoples' time by making it appear as though this is transparent and we are giving you feedback," she said, adding she knows the decision will likely boil down to money.

"We are scared, confused," said parent Shannon Herbst. "It was sort of dropped (on us) quickly. It came about really quickly last week, and we all just want answers."

With approximately 1,300 students, Crosby has the second-largest enrollment of any public middle school in Jefferson County. It's located at 303 Gatehouse Lane in Douglass Hills near Middletown.

Two years ago, the school's site-based decision making council raised concern that the district was trying to move the school's optional program -- called the Liberal Arts Academy -- to another location.

"We were here two years ago having the same conversation and there seems to be no strategic planning...about this problem that has been going on for years and years," Adams said.

Scott Shoemaker, who has a seventh grader at Crosby and a daughter in fifth grade at nearby Hite Elementary, told district officials they need to "go back to the drawing board."

He noted that the district's deadline to apply for magnet programs and schools was Jan. 6.

"You guys have got to think about the kids," he said. "Make it fair for all students."

At the end of the meeting, Hargens addressed the crowd, telling them that no decisions have been made and that their feedback was valued. She added that JCPS is still exploring all options in order to make Crosby a better place to learn. 

"They're doing a really great job of educating students here in the current space, but we know that's not optimal," she said. 

JCPS will hold another meeting about the overcrowding issues at Byck Elementary School in west Louisville at 7 p.m. on Thursday, since approximately a third of Crosby's students are bused from that neighborhood as part of the district's student assignment plan.

Officials say they would like to have a proposal to give to the school board by March.

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

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