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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education will consider recommendations next month aimed at helping students at its alternative schools.

Jefferson County Public Schools has convened a task force that’s exploring ways to give additional supports to those students, and some proposals on the table include providing career and technical education pathways, implementing restorative practices at alternative schools, creating separate campuses for middle and high school students in alternative programs, and increasing school choice options for kids exiting those schools.

The task force, which began its work in May, will make its recommendations to the board in December, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said.

Pollio told the board during a work session Tuesday that the goal is to improve outcomes for students in alternative schools, particularly those with behavioral issues.

“Our goal needs to be when a child goes into one of these alternative schools that we address the issues that they have so that they will be successful when and if they go back and not continue to go back and forth between a resides school and an alternative school,” Pollio said.

Pollio stressed his belief that students in alternative schools have different needs, suggesting the board explore creating a high school therapeutic program to help address the underlying issues affecting student behavior.

“We hope to do that as soon as possible,” he told the board.

Several of the task force’s recommendations will affect work outside the classroom in hopes of addressing disruptive behavior and giving kids clear strategies to exit alternative schools.

Katy DeFerrari, assistant superintendent for school culture and climate, said some ideas include assigning mentors to every student who enters an alternative program, developing plans for parental involvement, giving students regular updates on their progress toward exiting alternative schools and training staff on positive behavior interventions and restorative practices.

Such training, she said, is “crucial” to the success of students in alternative schools.

“Working with these types of students, trust is a big deal and having a relationship with them is a really big deal,” she said.

Other proposals being considered by the task force focus inside classrooms, such as providing access to more electives and career and technical classes.

Pollio said providing such instruction will help students in alternative schools feel more engaged in their learning and develop a sense of belonging.

It will likely fall on the district’s administration to develop a strategy to ensure kids can progress in career and technical pathways once they exit an alternative program, he said.

“There is no doubt that adds a level of complexity to it that is not easy, but I think if we are going to change outcomes for these kids, I think getting them engaged in career and tech ed and on a pathway is critical for us,” Pollio said. “So we’re going to have to work out how we do that.”

Board member Chris Brady questioned how the district planned to incorporate the separation of middle and high schoolers into its facilities plan.

“I’m sure you’re still trying to figure it out, but what do you have in mind as far as another facility?” he asked.

Pollio said he couldn’t get into specifics on Tuesday, but he said it’s something the district is working out as it develops a facilities plan that will follow the task force’s recommendations.

“We do have some ideas at this time about how we’re going to go forward,” Pollio said. “… I would hesitate to mention any buildings at this time. We definitely wanted the task force recommendations to come first.”

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

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