LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools opened a new learning center in west Louisville Monday meant to help students who have struggled in classes.

The center, called Elev8, will welcome students for the first time Monday and offer services like academic support, tutoring, counseling and enrichment opportunities from 2:30-7:30 p.m. on school days through the end of the 2021-22 school year and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in June.

JCPS leased space at The 2500 Building on West Broadway from BMW Investments and the Academy of Music Production, Education and Development for two years at $18,500 per month, according to the agreement.

The district is using federal stimulus dollars to finance the project initially, Superintendent Marty Pollio said during Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. JCPS has budgeted more than $2.3 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief dollars for the project's first year, according to Carolyn Callahan, the district's communications and community relations chief.

Pollio said learning centers like the Elev8 program launched Monday will be recognized as a "silver lining" of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted learning for students throughout the U.S.

“I think it will be an innovative approach that people from other communities, other school districts come to look at this model that we are producing here in Louisville, Kentucky, as a model that needs to be distributed nationally in order to support kids academically,” Pollio said, noting that JCPS is exploring opening similar learning centers in the Newburg and Smoketown neighborhoods.

Ninety students have already enrolled in the Elev8 program, which has capacity for 250.

The district is targeting students who fall short of grade-level benchmarks in reading and math, are failing at least three classes, or have missed at least 10 days in the 2021-22 school year for the Elev8 program, said Alicia Averette, assistant superintendent for academic support programs and special populations.

"The students were identified a while ago, and emails and personal phone calls were made to families, and so our students are ready to show up this afternoon," she said.

JCPS expects to hire up to 12 teachers to staff the Elev8 program in Louisville's West End. Ebony Booker will serve as the principal of the location.

"Right now we are using retired teachers," Pollio said. "... The balance we have to have here is we're in a teacher shortage, so the last thing we want to do is bring teachers in permanently hired that would leave a vacancy in a classroom. That defeats the purpose."

Starting so late in the school year means the program's "true growth" will come in the 2022-23 academic year, Pollio said.

"We're going to have music lessons in here for kids, performing arts for kids that will attract them," he said. "We're going to have robotics and really exciting things along with the specific academic supports, and at the same time we're going to be providing those extra services that kids need, whether that's just meals in the evening, whether that's mental health supports, counseling supports, we're going to be doing that," he said.

"Our dream is to do, as we move into next year, things like ACT prep for kids in this community, so it's a really exciting time for us."

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