JCPS Continues Student Assignment Discussions

by Devin Katayama on October 25, 2011

The Jefferson County Board of Education must decide on changes to its student assignment plan soon if it plans any changes affecting next school year.

“We’re just right now exploring parts of several plans. And we’re exploring Dr. Orfield’s recommendations,” said Jack Jacobs who oversees the JCPS student assignment plan.

The JCPS board met this week to discuss the options. Among the various plans, JCPS is considering a plan it never fully developed last year, and also recommendations from UCLA professor and student assignment expert Dr. Gary Orfield. His plan creates 13 smaller clusters in which parents could choose a school.

The proposed JCPS plan maintains six larger clusters and ensures diversity while cutting bus times for some students, said board chair Steve Imhoff.

“Orfield’s plan also cuts down on—suggests it cuts down on—the number of students riding the bus as well as, secondly, riding shorter. So they both suggest the same thing but in different ways,” said Imhoff.

Neither plan is close to gaining the board’s approval. Board member Linda Duncan said the district must still consider numbers district officials have not yet crunched and it’s unclear if Orfield’s diversity standards fit the district.

“We have a lot to consider because the ranges are so different,” said Duncan.

The JCPS student assignment plan hopes to be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year against its current plan and requires all school districts to allow students to attend the same school where they enroll, which would revert JCPS back to neighborhood schools.  Duncan said she wants to wait to move forward with changes to student assignment until after the courts decide if the current JCPS student assignment plan is legal.

“I’m not comfortable until the Supreme Court gives us direction and lets us know for sure if we can continue in one way or whether we have to go back and open everything up to, you just go to your neighborhood school,” she said.

Any decisions regarding student assignment that affect next school year must happen prior to the JCPS elementary showcase in January, said Imhoff. But no timeline is being set to make a decision.

District officials said they’re taking it step by step. On Nov. 7, the board expects to be presented with a survey of public opinion, which JCPS has been collected for the past few weeks.

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