What 'neighborhood schools' means for JCPS

What 'neighborhood schools' means for JCPS
Updated: Feb. 27, 2017 at 6:21 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Jefferson County Public School models predict the new neighborhood schools bill could leave an elementary school with just 46 students and push a high school to nearly 3,000.

No one is completely sure how it will play out. After passing the House Thursday, the bill may see amendments when it moves through the Senate.

If it passes, JCPS would have until 2019 to create a plan for the bill.

Realtors like Tre Pryor are having to deal with the limbo period and uncertainty right now.

"Inventory is at an all-time low," Pryor said. "We just need more sellers to bring their homes and put them on the market. They'll sell fast."

The buyers he's talking to are mostly focused on one thing.

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"If schools isn't the number one priority, it's the number two," he said.

During a nearly three-hour debate, Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R – Jefferson) defended the neighborhood schools bill Thursday.

"It's so common sense to me," Rep. Bratcher said.

The bill allows students to attend the school closest to them with exceptions for magnet and traditional schools.

"The choice is taken away because your choice is the nearest school," JCPS superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens said Friday.

JCPS has plotted out the maps for all of its schools and what they would look like before and after the bill.

The district has also looked at likely attendance. Chenoweth Elementary could end up with 46 students and Dunn Elementary could have 167 students, but a capacity for around 700.

On the other side of things, there are schools like Watterson Elementary.

For Watterson, students are already grouped closely together. Under the new rules it would be so tight that for nearly 500 students, Watterson would be the closest school to them, but too crowded for them to go. It's unclear where they would end up.

"I know that families buy homes to make sure they're in the resides of certain schools so it takes away that certainty," Hargens said.

"A student may have to skip to two or three schools to find the capacity available for him or her," Rep. Bratcher said in a phone interview Monday.

He added those cases will be few and no different than things are now for the district.

"The positives way out number the negatives on this," Rep. Bratcher said. "I'm getting so many parents that say, 'please this is what we've needed for years.'"

No students would be kicked out of schools they are already in as part of the plan.

Hargens said the district will still fight the bill in the Senate where it could face amendments.

"We're trying to make sure we give them the information that we have. We're the best to assess the impact," Hargens said.

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For now, Pryor can't give much guidance.

"I can educate them the best as I can but at the end of the day, they're going to make their decision and hope for the best when it comes to the school," Pryor said.

While the bill mostly impacts JCPS, it will still apply to the whole state.

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