JCPS Board Presented New Student Assignment Plan

The Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment staff has presented the school board with a plan it can implement next year, but some board members are unconvinced that the new plan is the best plan.

“The Cave” is the nickname for where JCPS staff has been preparing a new student assignment plan since hearing UCLA professor Gary Orfield’s recommendations in September. Orfield recommended a new diversity index and 13 smaller clusters for parents to choose a school as opposed to the six the district uses to form its current plan. 

But many of Orfield’s recommendations did not fit in with the district’s new proposal, said Jack Jacobs who leads the student assignment presentations.

“We want stability. We want our programs to stay intact. We do not want to purchase more buses and more equipment and get into all those things,” said Jacobs.

JCPS examined drafts of several plans, including some with up to 15 clusters, before arriving to the 12 cluster plan proposed, he said.

In the (proposed) plan, more students could be assigned closer to home than the current plan, said Jacobs.

“This particular plan did fit our clusters a lot better. It took care of our programs a lot better. The access was better for our transportation division,” he said.

Additional buses will not need to be purchased under the new plan, saving around $55,000 per bus a year, according to previous testimony from Rick Caple, JCPS director of transportation.

“This is getting closer to what parents want,” said board member Larry Hujo.

The JCPS proposal maintains Orfield’s diversity standards, which includes ESL students the current plan omits. Using race, income and education levels based on current census data, the plan rates each census block into a 1, 2 or 3 category according to Orfield’s diversity formula. None of the 12 cluster could fall below a 1.4 average or above 2.5 average. Many schools already adhere to this standard.

The new plan also includes shorter bus rides than the current six cluster plan. It also accommodates keeping siblings in the same school, and it allows students in the current student assignment plan to be grandfathered in while the new plan is implemented.

But several board members still had many unanswered questions and some still don’t feel comfortable enough to give it their stamp of approval.

Jacobs said the board needs to make its decision by Dec. 12, its final scheduled board meeting of the year. Some board members mentioned it may be smart to wait until spring to approve a plan, which would delay its implementation until the 2013-2014 school year. It’s also unclear if JCPS intends on seeking public approval on the proposed plan before the board votes next month.

As of now, no additional meetings have been scheduled, but a few board members acknowledged it may be a good idea.