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Members of the JCPS Student Assignment Review Advisory Committee talk during their meeting June 18, 2019.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some Jefferson County Public Schools students entering middle and high schools would have the option of attending class closer to home under a proposal being considered by a panel reviewing the district’s assignment plan.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio floated the idea during Tuesday’s Student Assignment Review Advisory Committee meeting. It would give families who live in outlying “resides” areas of the district’s student assignment maps for middle and high schools — primarily Louisville’s west end — the choice of attending a nearby school instead.

Pollio said the idea reflects the results from a survey on the current JCPS student assignment plan that found parents, students and community members all listed choice as their top priority.

Among parents, 88% of respondents to the survey said that parents should be given options for which schools and programs their children attend. By comparison, 50% of parents who participated in the survey agreed that the district should ensure schools have diverse student populations through enrollment protocols.

“We have a certain group of students that might not have that choice based on our current student assignment plan in satellite areas, and so we looked at some other cities and some potential solutions,” Pollio told WDRB News after Tuesday’s meeting. “One of those was to provide two resides schools for every single student in that satellite area.”

After discussing the proposal, committee members voiced their support for the concept.

Dena Dossett, the district’s chief of accountability, research and systems who sits on the panel, said her small group felt the proposal, if put into action, could help develop family engagement, boost attendance and alleviate overcrowding in some schools, among other potential benefits.

One concern from her group, though, was that the district could risk “creating concentrations of poverty” among its schools.

Pollio said such concerns are valid and have been expressed about the current student assignment plan.

“I think that’s the discussion we have: Could that increase as a result of that, and that’s a tough conversation, and do we have to change the way we resource teachers as a result?” he said. “… We’ll really have to study and look at it to make sure that we mitigate those problems.”

Other questions posed by district officials at Tuesday’s meeting were whether the district should use measures of diversity in student assignment and in directing resources to schools.

Since a 2007 court ruling, JCPS has used three factors to maintain diverse school populations through U.S. Census data: race, median household income and adult education.

Committee members generally agreed that diversity should be a larger factor in the allocation of resources rather than in assigning students to schools.

Striking the right balance between school choice and student diversity is something other school districts are grappling with as well, Pollio said.

“Increasing choice has the potential sometimes to impact diversity,” he said.

“We have a lot of our stakeholders who identified choice as the most important part, and so we have to have that conversation in this task force around that impact of diversity and specifically what that means, whether it means assigning students or resourcing schools in a different way,” Pollio said, noting that the final decision would be up to the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The committee is scheduled to meet again July 9.

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