JCPS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools may soon open a new school geared toward minority girls after the district’s all-boys school showed positive signs of growth in its first year.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said he hoped to have a proposal on the girls-only school before the Jefferson County Board of Education in August or September. That would allow the new school, if approved by the board, to open in time for the 2020-21 school year.

The exact cost of operating the proposed school remains unclear, but Chief Equity Officer John Marshal said during a board work session Tuesday that the W.E.B. DuBois Academy, on which the girls’ school would be based, cost nearly $2 million to operate in its first year and is projected to cost $2.7 million in its second, when the school will add a seventh-grade class.

Unclear, too, is exactly what the school’s curriculum would entail. Marshall said an advisory council made up of minority women has been empaneled to give insight into how the school should be structured, and some potential tenets of it include STEAM education, a gender-centric and Afrocentric curriculum, and equity.

Marshall said such a school focused on minority girls could make an impact on disproportionality within JCPS, especially when comparing black girls to their white peers. Black girls make up 14.2% of suspensions in JCPS compared to 4.3% for white females and 25% of the district’s alternative school enrollment compared to white girls making up 3% of that population, and 15.1% of black female students took at least one advanced placement test whereas 35.5% of white girls took at least one such exam.

“We need this school,” Marshall said. “The data that we speak of and the disparate impact we’re having on our students , we’ve got to do something different.”

Many board members expressed their support for the concept during a work session Tuesday.

“I look forward to voting for this,” said board member Corrie Shull, who represents District 6.

Some details of the proposal still need to be worked out, such as where such a school will be placed. Pollio said additional information will be presented at a future work session before the school board decides whether to open such a school.

Board member Chris Brady, who represents District 7, asked whether the school could be located at the Gheens Academy in its first year. That’s where the DuBois Academy held classes in its first year, and the school will move to the former Liberty High School location next school year.

Pollio said the district is looking at how DuBois was situated as a template, although he stressed that no plans were “in stone” at this point.

“We are look at a similar model of first year would be in a district building similar to what DuBois did because it’s only 150 students,” he said. “… We would probably employ the same type of model, which would be a district facility building for the first year or even the first two years before looking for a permanent home.”

JCPS officials are hoping to replicate the early success they say has been evident at the DuBois Academy in its first year. In mid-year academic assessments, 62% of DuBois students met their growth projections in mathematics and 51% met their growth projects in English, and the sixth-grade academy had less than 20 suspensions as of last month, according to data presented during Tuesday’s work session.

What’s more, 88% of DuBois students felt a sense of belonging in the schools, topping the district’s average of 75% for middle school students surveyed.

“We’re very honest with our young men at the school, and we told them from the onset of the year that I thought personally the only way we’d have the opportunity to have a girls’ school is if for the first time in a long time, from my perspective in our community, we had the young men doing work,” said Robert Gunn, the DuBois Academy’s principal.

“So we knew that they had to take the first step and show that schools like this can exist, they can work for the young men. We want to be the trailblazers that usher forth the school for the young ladies as well.”

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