LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As Jefferson County Public Schools begins work on tweaking its student assignment plan, some parents who showed up to Thursday’s first of four listening sessions on the policy say they hope to see a simpler and easier-to-understand process in the future.

About a dozen showed up to the meeting at Southern High School, where district officials asked for their feedback and fielded questions about the JCPS student assignment plan.

While the district is undergoing a routine review of the policy that began in October 2017, the corrective action plan between the Jefferson County Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education developed as part of the agreement that avoided a complete state takeover of JCPS calls for changes in student assignment by the 2020-21 school year.

Officials say feedback from the listening sessions – others are planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at Central High School, 7 p.m. Monday at Valley High School and 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ballard High School – and an online survey in late November through December will be presented to a committee currently looking at the student assignment plan as it develops its recommendation for the school board.

That committee consists of parents, teachers, principals, JCPS administrators and community members.

Barbara Dempsey, the district’s director of student assignment, said JCPS officials hope to have a plan approved by the school board by the summer of 2019 so the revised policy can be implemented in time for the 2020-21 school year.

She fielded a number of concerns with the current plan during Thursday’s session, such as the need for help identifying the best fits for students in the face of several school options and ensuring that students are able to continue participating in the same programs of interest as they transition from middle school to high school.

Still others told her they had no qualms with the current plan, she said.

“We need to hear from a lot of people, what’s working and what may not be working so well,” Dempsey said.

The main critique from Samantha Armstrong, a single mother of five, wasn’t so much with the student assignment plan as it was with differing teaching methods at JCPS schools. She said her kids “were all over town at one point” and each school taught their lessons differently, leaving her feeling like she needed a doctorate to help her kids with homework assignments.

She said she had to “fight and fight and fight to get them together.”

“Now that I got them where they need to be, we can kind of focus on the same type of learning, and I think that’s what they need to address more than the student assignment,” Armstrong said. “Maybe like a teacher assignment where the education is equal all across the entire district instead of just you get a better education over here than you do over here.”

Martha Sanchez, who moved to Louisville from a Texas border town 10 years ago, said the district’s student assignment plan proved daunting for her as she navigated the process with her two kids, now a junior and senior.

“For me, my concern for our Latino and international community is the language barrier,” Sanchez said. “How are they going to go through that process? They come from countries that probably do not have these types of options, so it’s overwhelming.”

Sanchez also said she’d like to see JCPS clearly indicate schools that offer bilingual programs, have teachers on staff that can speak other languages in the student assignment process and provide programs oriented toward specific career routes. Some parents don’t know such career-focused programs exist and kids who come from different cultures may be too shy to ask, she said.

Greg Redgate moved to Louisville about three and a half years ago with twin sons currently in second grade at Jeffersontown Elementary and another son in sixth grade at Ramsey Middle. He called the student assignment plan “extremely confusing” and getting help can at times be “frustrating.”

“With the potential of moving within the city and not knowing what school they’re going to be going to, what I would like to see is a more streamlined system,” he said. “Something that is a lot easier to navigate.”

In order to achieve that, Redgate said the district would have to move to neighborhood schools, but he noted that wouldn’t be practical at JCPS.

“If I had the answer to that, I wouldn’t be doing what I do today,” he said.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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