Parents mixed on JCPS plans for struggling schools - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Parents mixed on JCPS plans for struggling schools

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Dr. Donna Hargens Dr. Donna Hargens
Rob Stephenson Rob Stephenson
Monica Marcum Monica Marcum

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Jefferson County Public Schools administrators, working on a tight timeline to make changes to struggling schools, got mixed reactions to their plans from parents Tuesday.

Their plans include changes to four failing JCPS schools. Administrators have proposed major changes for Frost Middle School and Valley High School, where sixth- through eighth-graders would have an extended school day. 

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said the main objective is to improve student and teacher performance, including at a sixth grade-only academy at Frost Middle School.

"It gives 6th graders a chance just focus on reading and math and being with 6th graders and get a leg up before the next level," Hargens said. 

Hargens said district administrators are exploring the idea of partnering Frost Middle School and Valley High School to help students transition from middle to high school.

The 7th and 8th graders from Frost would move to Valley High School, where Valley principal Rob Stephenson said they have plenty of room to handle the extra students. 

"They'll be housed in a different section of the building also their lunch time will be different," said Stephenson. "They will have the opportunity to use our facilities use our auditorium." 

Stephenson said the 7th and 8th graders will also have exposure to the programs at Valley, such as the medical magnet where students get trained to be a certified nursing assistant. 

The proposal also includes extended day and extended year for Frost and Valley 7th and 8th grade students.

Administrators held their first public input session Tuesday at Frost Middle, where a group of about 10 parents had concerns about the proposals.

"(The extra time in school) shouldn't be mandatory, I don't think," parent Tonya Decker said. "It should be up to us, as parents, to decide whether they need it or they don't."

Decker said she agreed that Frost was among the district's worst-performing schools, saying she had tried twice to get her son into another school.

Other parents -- and the head of the teachers' union -- said the plans came as a surprise to them.

"They could have warned us that they are even thinking about doing this," parent Monica Marcum said. "It's like all of a sudden on the news this morning I saw it and was like, 'Um, really?'" 

Marcum has children at both Frost and Valley and is worried her son would be bullied by older students. 

"You get into high school the boys get bigger and meaner," Marcum said. "It worries me."

Brent McKim, the president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said teachers would have liked to have been more involved before district officials showed the plans to the school board Monday.

Administrators held a separate input session with Frost teachers on Tuesday, which Chief Academic Officer Dewey Hensley said was helpful.

"Hopefully, we can put (our) vision together with the feedback and get better outcomes for students," he said Tuesday night.

JCPS administrators have also proposed add a magnet program for a cadet academy at Myers Middle School, where students would focus on ROTC. 

The other proposal includes The Academy at Shawnee, where students will partner with the University of Louisville to improve performance. 

Administrators will bring a final version of the plan before the school board on Oct. 14. In the meantime, JCPS administrators have scheduled several public meetings for feedback. For a list, click on the links to each proposal: http://www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/News/NewsSlide/MiddleWhitePaper.html.

The proposed changes would cost the district about $1 million.

More than 1,000 schools nationwide, including a mix of charter and public schools, have gone to a longer school day in recent years, according to data from the National Center on Time and Learning, a group that advocates for extending learning time.

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